by Swami Krishnananda
Immortality is attained through the knowledge of the fact that the Self is the independent existence. Death is negated because of the absence of desires. Death is the process of the reshuffling of oneself from one condition to another condition. This process is the effect of unfulfilled desires. Nothing is lost when this body is lost, because death is the casting off of what is not needed and the way of entering into what is needed.
Knowledge is disintegration of personality and integration of being. Embodiment is the centralisation of energy by desires attended by consciousness. Generality is particularised by desires. Everyone wants something and not everything. This separation or partition created by the desires limits the desirer to the form of the object of his desire. This results in the experience of death and birth by the desirer, because he has to maintain the reality of the form of the object of his desire. Knowledge, therefore, consists in the cancelling of the truth of all forms of desires and removing the partition that is created.
The Selfhood attributed to the senses, etc. has to be transcended through the negation of their realities. This requires extraordinary courage or dhairya, because it is hard to negate what is experienced as a reality. To realise that the changing of bodies is for one’s good, to know that getting rid of individuality is beneficial, to come to the conclusion that impersonality is the real state of being, to detach oneself from one’s pet forms of experience, is not easy. Faith in Truth means disbelief in phantoms. Immortality and mortality are utter contradictions. We cannot live in God and at the same time live in the world. The world is a nihil in the glory of the Selfhood of Divinity.
Transcending this world does not mean casting this world away and going to another superior world. The world is a condition of experience, a mode through which we view reality, a form which we have selected out of the immense Ground of forms. As long as we are satisfied with some condition of existence and do not want its other conditions, we are said to live in a perishable world, because no condition is complete. All modes are, after all, distorted aspects and do not reveal to us the fullness of perfection. Renunciation of this world, therefore, means dissatisfaction with everything that we experience at any time, at any place and under any circumstance. Nothing of this universe should please us, lest we should be pleased with apparitions or thought constructions or dream-objects. Deathlessness is the result of desirelessness, of resting in the condition of wanting nothing at all, nothing of this world, nothing of the other world, nothing of this body, nothing of the mind, nothing of externals or internals. Negation of death means transcendental independence or kaivalya. It is to be connected with nothing, to rest in Supreme Subjectness.
The world is the colour that we paint over Truth. This colour is the one in which we appear, and it is variegated. The colours change as we change ourselves. What we are, that the world is. The objects are influenced by the characters of the subjects. The form of what we perceive is dependent on the instruments through which we perceive. The collective mind of all of us gives form and value to what it experiences, and this it does on the basis of the constitution of itself. Whatever be the value or greatness of anything of the world, it is determined by the necessity of the experiencers to experience that value or greatness. The good and the evil of this world are the reactions produced by the wants of individuals, and as such good and evil are not absolute values. The form of the world of objective value ceases to exist the moment the potentialities of wants in the individuals are annihilated, i. e., when the necessity for any form of experience in the cosmos is put an end to. Freedom from desires is something like existing as a granite-mountain that knows no change even when storms blow over it. It is to exist in the highest sense of absolute non-duality. This is immortality. Though the experience of the Immortal need not necessarily mean the destruction of the body, the body will be incapable of maintaining itself for long, for want of egoistic desires. Therefore, moksha in the real sense means existing in the condition of the Truth of bodilessness. The highest jivanmukti is immediately followed by videhamukti. Brahman is experienced here and now.
Neither the eye nor the speech nor the mind can reach Reality. These instruments of knowledge reveal objects, not the subject. The subject is the source from which these instruments proceed like rays. The rays are projected outwards, not inwards. Even as fire cannot burn itself, the Self cannot know itself through these instruments. The mind wills and determines with respect to what is within the province of its knowledge. But it cannot will and determine with respect to the Self, because the Self is not a substance which can have relations with anything. It is neither the known nor the unknown. It is not the known because there is no means of knowing it. All our means are phenomenal. What is perishable cannot reach the Imperishable. The means of the knowledge of the Self is itself. The Self is the object of its own knowledge. The knower cannot know the knower through any possible means. Omnipresence negates all relationships and every kind of knowledge is the relationship between the knower and the known. Everything that is known or manifested is tainted by its distinctness and, therefore, is subject to modification and death. The object of knowledge is set in opposition to the subject, and this opposition prevents the fullness of knowledge on the part of the knower, the knower can never have complete knowledge if the object of knowledge controls him. The possibility of complete knowledge shows that the object of knowledge is controlled by the knower. He can know it in any way he likes, but capricious knowledge is not real knowledge. Real knowledge is ever the same. This is possible when the knower renounces his caprice, i.e., when he does not know the object of knowledge as something separated, in other words, when he knows himself alone. Whatever is known is petty and perishable. It is the cause of pain and misery. It is to be rejected. All contacts are mines of sorrow, the reason for which is that in all processes of knowledge the knower tries to run away from the Truth of himself. Knowledge is the condition of non-opposition and non-contradiction.
An object can be defined or perceived through its class, quality and action. But the Atman does not belong to any class, and it is devoid of quality and action. Perception and inference fail in their attempt to know the Atman. Perception is private knowledge, valid only to the perceivers and therefore not trustworthy. Inference is the result of perception and so it, also, is untrustworthy.
Agama or intuition is the only source of valid knowledge. Perception and inference differ in their characteristics in accordance with different places, times, persons, objects and conditions. Intuitive knowledge is not in need of cognitive instruments or any external source of knowledge. The knowledge of everything that is known is the result of the interaction of the natures of the subject and the object. But true knowledge is not the result of any interaction. True knowledge is self-luminous. Hence the Atman is not the unknown also.
The Atman is assumed as a postulate in all processes of knowledge. No knowledge is possible without such an assumption of the indubitability of the existence of the Self. One’s own Nature cannot be perceived, for want of means. Self existence is free from all doubts and is an established fact. The Self is, therefore, neither to be rejected nor to be grasped or obtained, because of its not being either the known or the unknown. If it is the unknown it becomes an object to be known, i.e., the cause of knowledge. One seeks for a cause because one wants to produce an effect. All effects are perishable, and it is not possible to produce any effect through perfect knowledge. Knowledge does not produce anything. No power is manifested in the state of perfect knowledge. All powers of effects are phantoms. Self-existence never becomes another.
The production of an effect or the manifestation of a power shows that the cause or such a production or manifestation is not perfect in itself. There is nothing worth attaining or manifesting except one’s own Self. Nothing other than the Self, the knower, can bring lasting benefit. The Self is not produced, but known. Knowledge, therefore, is not in relation with anything. The desire for anything external to the Self shall meet with a miserable fate. The statement that the Self is other than the known and the unknown figuratively indicates that the Self is non-relational, unconditioned, infinite.
The inner Self of all, the brilliant light of consciousness, otherwise known as Brahman, does not become an object of itself, because it exists everywhere. Infinity is one and therefore cannot have an object. It knows itself and not another.
This knowledge is revealed to us not through any of our functions but through the gradual cessation of our functions, which is the result of advancement in evolution, deepened experience, contact with the wise and disillusionment of oneself through silent introspection. Knowledge does not come by leaps and bounds. It follows a systematic process of unveiling the fact of existence. It is not possible to climb over the higher without stepping over the lower. The grosser manifestations have to be paid their dues, have to be pacified, not repressed, before our transcending them. No brute force, no dogmatic tradition, no pet belief can be a help in the attainment of knowledge. Clear understanding, free from all passions and preconceived notions, alone acts as a torch illuminating the path to perfection.
Brahman should be known to be other than what can be expressed by speech, thought of by the mind, seen by the eyes, heard by the ears, or revealed by life’s functions. The nature of Truth can be known through denials alone. We cannot call Brahman sat, because it is the opposite of asat. It cannot be called asat, because it is the opposite of sat. It cannot be called sadasat, i.e., a combination of sat and asat, because this becomes self-contradictory. It cannot be said to be beyond sat and asat, because this is unintelligible. Thus we are cornered in every way, and all definitions of Brahman become impossible. The only way of ascertaining it is, therefore, to deny everything that we know through the senses or through the mind. Brahman is sometimes called in the Upanishads asat or non-existence, because the seers of the Upanishads wanted to make it clear that Brahman is nothing that exists according to our conceptions of existence. Brahman is also called many times asamprajnata or the unconscious or the unknown, because it is nothing that is known to us, and it is not knowledge as we understand knowledge to be. It is therefore called super-being or transcendental being, super-consciousness or transcendental consciousness. It is called sat or Being because the world is asat or non-being or perishable. It is called chit or consciousness because the world is achit, jada or unconsciousness. It is called ananda because the world is Duhkha or sorrow. It is called great because everything else is small. Thus, every characteristic which we attribute to the Divine Being is the opposite of what we experience here. But we cannot know exactly what the Divine Being is as it is in itself. Our knowledge of the perfected condition is the result of a logical deduction from our imperfect experiences. Its experience is admitted because nothing can be accounted for without such an admission. It is the one factor that gives meaning to life and explains our thoughts and behaviours, speeches and actions. Brahman, therefore, should not be mistaken to be anything that is experienced by any individual in any of its conditions. The experience of Brahman means the destruction of individuality. The expressions of individuality are always partitioned into the knower and the known. The upasana (devoted worship) of a personal Divinity, no doubt, integrates the mental consciousness, collects its rays, makes it one whole being, raises the individual above the pains of the world. But it is not the same as brahma-sakshatkara (realisation of Brahman), because, in upasana, duality is not destroyed. Every object of upasana is based on purusha-tantra; the nature of the object of upasana depends upon the desire of the upasaka. The objects of upasana, therefore, differ from one person to another; but Brahman cannot differ like that. Brahman is vastu-tantra. Its knowledge is unshaken and dependent on nothing. It is the grand, immobile Self-existence. Upasanas are, therefore, helps, means, to the knowledge of Brahman. But the object of upasana is not Brahman.
The nature of the object of upasana is not characterised by pure consciousness, but it is defined by the devout thought of the upasaka. Truth, as it is in itself, is, chinmatra-svarupa (of the nature of pure consciousness alone), not defined by thought. The word Brahman is derived from the root brimh, which means to swell, to grow great, to pervade all space, to be complete and perfect. All qualities that we attribute to Brahman are the effects of our devotion. Even the best qualities super-imposed on Brahman are what we consider as the best. The realisation of the Absolute means the renunciation of all our ideas, good or bad, great or low. It is to rest simple and silent, calm and undisturbed, in the state of wanting nothing. It is to be nothing at all, in the strictest sense. Supreme attainment is the result of supreme renunciation. When we, as persons, become non-existent, we are said to exist as Supreme Existence.
Conceptions, perceptions and forms of experience given rise to by personal interests cannot have ultimate value. Perfect and disinterested existence means the renunciation of all particularised forms of experience. It is not possible to bring down the Self to the level of what it is not and what is less than it. Knowledge, desire and action connected with the human being are guided by the Self and therefore they cannot guide the Self; they are dependent. Whatever is expressed is mortal, and whatever is not the Self is expressed.