by Swami Krishnananda
The process of the manifestation of the universe is fourfold, as there is a fourfold process in the painting of a picture. There is, first, a piece of cloth, pure in its original state. It is then coated with starch, to stiffen it into a canvas suitable for painting. The artist draws on the canvas an outline of the picture that is in his mind. Finally, the outline is filled with the necessary colour, giving it the appearance of the contemplated picture.
The universe is a vast picture painted, as it were, on the basis of Brahman. Pure Consciousness, which is the nature of Brahman, is the substratum of all things, and this may be compared to the pure cloth necessary as the background for the painting. The condition in which the projection of the universe is latently conceived and held in a seed-form, unmanifest and invisible, is the state of Isvara, where the universe is in sleep. There is a rousing from this sleep into a dreaming condition of creation in Hiranyagarbha, where faint outlines of the picture of the universe are visible, though a clear perception of it is impossible there. The colourful presentation of creation is brought into high relief in the state of Virat, where is a waking of all things into their own individualities, and where each regards oneself as a distinct entity. All manifested beings, right from the Creator to a blade of grass, animate and inanimate, exist as a graduated series of manifestations, all painted on the substratum of Brahman. Higher consciousness, lower consciousness and unconsciousness are differences introduced in the various items constituting the painted picture of the Cosmos, from the point of view of the degree in which Brahman-Consciousness is manifested in each of them. The difference in the expression of consciousness in different individuals does not mean that the individuals are really possessed of any intelligence of their own, for one and the same Consciousness is manifest in all these, in various ways, in accordance with the subtlety of the medium of expression. The intellect or the Buddhi, being a subtler medium, reflects a greater amount of consciousness than the lower kingdom, in which such a medium is absent. Just as we differentiate, artificially, the painted dresses and the painted human beings from the real cloth on which the picture is painted, we do in this world make a false distinction between the imaginary, reflected intelligence called Chidabhasa, and the real Intelligence, which is Brahman. As these reflections or Chidabhasa are different owing to the difference in the degree of intelligence manifest in them, Jivas are manifold in number, and there are countless ways of drawing a distinction between Jiva and Brahman. As the colour of the painted clothes is unwisely superimposed on the cloth-background by the observers, the individualities and the variegated world-forms are wrongly felt to be in the Brahman.
The feeling that Samsara is real, that it is intertwined with the Self, really, is the bondage of the Jiva, and this is called Avidya. The firm conviction that bondage does not belong to the Atman, that it is a phase of Jivahood or Chidabhasa, is true knowledge, and this is acquired by deep reflection. Hence one should constantly engage oneself in a thorough investigation of the nature of Isvara, Jagat, and Jiva (God, World and Soul). When there dawns the awareness that the world and Jiva are correlatives and have no independent reality or value of their own, they cancel each other, and there rises the higher knowledge of the Paramatman or the Supreme Self. Mere non-perception of the world should not be mistaken for the liberation of the Jiva. Else, there would be liberation in sleep, swoon, death and cosmic dissolution, where the world is not objectively experienced. Liberation is positive knowledge of the unreality of multiplicity, and the reality of the universal Unity. In the state of the true Knowledge the outward perception of the world need not necessarily be negatived. The appearance of the world may be there, but the feeling of its reality is not there. Such a state is called liberation-while-living (Jivanmukti).
Spiritual knowledge is of two kinds: direct and indirect. It is only in direct knowledge that contemplation and meditation reach their culmination. To know that Brahman is, is to have an indirect knowledge of it. To know that one is identical with it in actual experience, is to have a direct knowledge. Towards this end, the nature of Truth is being analysed here. (Verses 1-17)
The One Truth appears to have a fourfold distinction as Kutastha, Brahman, Jiva and Isvara, even as the space contained in a jar, the vast universal space, the space reflected in the water contained in the jar, and the space reflected in the widely spread clouds in space may be distinguished from one another. Kutastha is that which is the changeless substratum of the physical and the subtle bodies which the Jiva experiences. This substratum is called the Kutastha because it is unmoving like an anvil, even while it is beaten severely. The intellect which is superimposed on the Kutastha and through which the latter is reflected, becomes the source of the appearance of the Jiva, which is so called because it infuses life into the individuality and appears to get involved in Samsara. As the space reflected in the water of a jar completely covers the real space in it, Jivahood takes the position of the Kutastha and makes it impossible for one to have a direct knowledge of the Kutastha, by mutual superimposition (Anyonya-Adhyasa) of attributes. The existence, consciousness, freedom and bliss of Kutastha are superimposed on Jivahood, and the Jiva begins to feel thereby that it exists as intelligence, freedom, bliss, and so on. Conversely, the changing characters of the Jiva, such as pain, pleasure, etc., are superimposed on the Kutastha, and one begins to feel that one has really these experiences. Thus the Jiva, getting busy with itself and its activities, forgets its own source, and knows it never in its daily life. This forgotten nature is called Mula-Avidya or the original ignorance.
Avidya exists as Avarana and Vikshepa, on account of the operation of which one makes the assertion “I do not know the Atman; and it is not there”. This is the work of the Abhana and Asatta aspects of Avarana. Though the Atman is the Centre of everyone, it is not known, and its existence is practically denied in the daily business of life. That such an Avidya exists is self-evident to everyone, though it will not stand the scrutiny of logic. The existence of Avidya is a mystery which is accepted by everyone in experience, but none can investigate into its nature, as the process of investigation, logical analysis, etc., is a working of the intellect, which itself is an outcome of Avidya. Yukti (reasoning) should be based on Sruti (scripture), logic should ground itself in intuition. Kutastha-Chaitanya or General Consciousness is not opposed to the existence of Avidya; else there would be the negation of Avidya in the state of deep sleep. Avidya has no meaning for the Atman, and hence the opposition of Avidya by the Atman has also no meaning. Avidya is dispelled by a Vritti of the mind in its cosmic form, which is called Brahmakara-Vritti, as this supreme Vritti has no other object than Brahman; it subsides after bringing about the requisite elimination and does not continue to proceed as the Vishayakara-Vritti, which has an external object correlative to it. As silverness is superimposed on the mother-of-pearl, the Chidabhasa, together with the bodies, is superimposed on the Kutastha. Here, in this superimposition of silver on nacre, the reality of nacre and its immediacy referred to as ‘thisness’ are transferred to an unreal silver, whose shining character is brought into contact with the nacre in an erroneous perception. Thisness and reality are the common features which are recognised in the silver that is not really there. Selfhood and substantiality are likewise characters of the Kutastha, which are falsely seen in the Chidabhasa. Just as the special features of nacre, such as bluish black, triangularity, etc., are completely overlooked and are not seen in the perception of it as silver, the unattached condition and the blissful nature of the Kutastha are forgotten in the mistaken notion of it as the Jiva, and vice versa. Even as what is superimposed on nacre is called silver, here, in our own case, what is superimposed on the Kutastha goes by the name of ‘Aham’ or ‘I’-ness. By seeing merely the ‘this’-ness of nacre, one wrongly feels that it is silver. And while, in fact, there is only the experience of Kutastha, one mistakes it for ‘I’-ness or ‘ Ahamta’.
In the observation this silver, ‘thisness’ and silver are two different things. So also, Selfhood and ‘I’-ness are different from each other in the feeling: “I am”. The general and the special features are not to be confused with each other, and the ‘Self’ is an invariable concomitant in such common usages as “Devadatta himself is going”; “you yourself may see”; “I myself will not be able to do this”, etc. The term ‘Self’ that is used here is a general feature in all cases, as in such statements like, “this is silver”, “this is cloth”, etc., where thisness refers to the common feature in things. The Selfhood of things is the Kutastha, and it is their reality; particularities like ‘I’-ness etc. are special features which are different from Selfhood. The Self is other than all sense of objectivity.
Though it is a fact that the Self is present, as far as we know, only in what we call a sentient being, we, in our language, use the word ‘Self’ even when referring to insentient objects like a pot. In such statements as ‘a pot by itself has no consciousness’, we unconsciously introduce selfhood into the pot, though the pot has no consciousness and has thus no characteristics of Self. But the Self or the Atman is not only consciousness but also existence. When we say a pot exists, we say the least that can be said about it, viz., that it is. We also mean thereby that it is real, because the unreal is not; but the real is not capable of being seen as an object outside consciousness; yet we affirm that an object is. Here the mistake that we commit is that we combine in perception existence or the reality of the Atman and a special property which we term objectness, but we cannot see that we are making this mistake; and if only we could see it, we would not see the world as it is. We would then begin to see the luminous substratum of things, which cannot be called an object at all. In the perception of an object like a pot, the existence-aspect of Brahman is revealed, and it is this that makes us say that pot is there. It does not matter if the pot has no consciousness. It has existence, and this is enough to give it the character of reality. Reality is not merely consciousness without existence, but consciousness with existence, in such a manner that the one cannot be distinguished from the other. The appearance or the non appearance of Chidabhasa is the cause of our bringing in a distinction between the sentient and the non-sentient. As Chidabhasa is superimposed on the Atman, the objectness of the pot is also superimposed on it in a like manner. There is a universal background of things, on which appear the subject as well as the object, both of which are superimposed on it. The term ‘Self’ which we use to indicate the general feature in all things is different from the meanings of such terms as ‘this’ and ‘that’ etc., which are also, apparently, invariable concomitants of substantives. For the former is exclusive of all objective element in experience, while the latter merely indicate the exclusiveness of things or the difference of one thing from another, and do not signify ‘Selfhood’. The Self is not an adjective qualifying itself, and it does not demonstrate anything other than itself, not does it distinguish itself from itself, while such words as ‘this’, ‘that’, etc., do indicate such distinction. This and That, Self and non-Self, I and you, etc. are exclusive of each other, but the Atman is not exclusive, except in the sense that it stands opposed to all attempts at objectivising Reality.
The Self is set in opposition to the notion of all objectivity, because it is never objectified in experience. To it, everything objective is outside reality, as the feeling of ‘I’-ness in the individual regards all other things in the world as outside its reality. The sense of ‘I’-ness in the Jiva is falsely taken as a centre of consciousness, and all other things known by it are regarded as objects merely instrumental in bringing about experience in the former. Though ‘I’-ness assumes selfhood so far as its experiences are concerned and considers the world as an object to it, the ‘I’-ness itself is an object from the point of view of the Atman. The ‘I’-ness may falsely regard itself as a conscious principle, but from the standpoint of the Atman it is not consciousness-in-itself. The ego is objective to the Atman. ‘I’-ness and Self are different from each other, as silver and nacre are different in the analogy cited. This intrinsic superimposition, called Tadatmya-Adhyasa, between the Chidabhasa and Kutastha is responsible for the confused form of experience as conscious individuality. Avidya is the cause of all these, and when Vidya dawns Avidya is destroyed. However, the effect of Avidya may persist for sometime, though the cause is removed by Jnana. In the case of the Jnanin the Bhramaja-Adhyasa or the misconception consequent upon false identification of the Kutastha with Chidabhasa, and vice versa, is cut off, due to which he will not have any further birth. But the Sahaja-Adhyasa or the natural error of identifying the Chidabhasa with Ahamkara (ego), and vice versa, as also the Karmaja-Adhyasa or the identification of the ego with the body, and vice versa, will persist. The Sanchita-Karma or the result of actions done in the past, but not manifested in experience yet, and Agami-Karma or the result of actions performed during the present life, do not, in the case of a Jnanin, bring about any reaction in the form of rebirth, etc. But the Prarabdha-Karma, or that portion of the Sanchita-Karma which has been allotted for experience in a particular span of life, has to be undergone until its momentum is exhausted, whether the Jnanin feels the working of the Prarabdha or not. The Chhandogya Upanishad (Ch.VI.) testifies to the operation of Prarabdha in a Jnanin. It is reasonable, as it is possible, for a momentum to continue even while its cause has ceased to operate. This is also corroborated by the saints who have given expression to such experiences. (Verses 18-56)