Saturday April 21, 2018

Self-Enquiry leads to Self-Realization

0
//
117
Photo: vividlife.me
Republish
Reprint

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 13

In the previous installments, we dealt with the questions: What is God? Where is God? And How to attain God? It was shown how God permeates the Universe and exists in the Hearts of all creatures as their Innermost Atman. It was further shown how, the only way to attain Brahman i.e. Moksha (liberation) was through Atma-Jnana (self-realization).

Now, let us see how to attain this realization of Atman.

People strongly identify themselves with their body and name and the sense of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ is very strong in them. People introduce themselves using their name, their gender, location, age, etc. They consider the house, the family, the money they have earned as belonging to them. This strong sense of ‘I-ness’ (Ahamkara) and ‘Mine-ness’ (Mamahkara) defines one’s identity.

But, this identity of Self with the body is not a real identity, instructs the scriptures. These are all only temporary identities superimposed on Atman that have arisen due to Avidya (ignorance) about the real nature of the Self. Adi Shankaracharya in his Nirvana Shatkam clearly says, he is not the body, mind, or Causal state. Instead, he is Atman whose nature is Knowledge-Bliss.

The Upanishads repeatedly instruct through Mahavakyas (Great Sentences) like “Tat Tvam Asi” (Thou Art That) and “Aham Bahmasmi” (Self is Brahman) that the true identity of Self is that it is Brahman and not body and mind. Therefore, the realization of Atman (Atma-Jnana) constitutes removal of false identifications of the Self with the body, so that Atman can shine in its true nature without obstructions.

So, the question arises how to attain this Self? How to remove the false identifications? In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.5), Yajnavalkya instructs Maitreyi thus:

ātmā vā are dṛṣtavyaḥ śrotravyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyi

ātmano vā are darśanena śravaṇena matyā vijñānenedaṃ sarvaṃ viditam ||

Translation: The Self, oh Maitreyi, should be perceived/realized- should be heard, reflected, and meditated/contemplated upon. By realization of the Self through hearing, reflection, and meditation, all this is known.

Thus, the path to attain Atma-Jnana has four stages and this is referred as ‘Sravana chatushtaya’ in Vedanta. The four stages are: Sravana (hearing), Manana (reflection), Nidhidhyasa (Meditation on Self), and the fourth stage is Self-realization itself (Atma-Jnana).

Sravana refers to listening to the teachings of the Upanishads and Mahavakyas from a Guru. After, a student has listened to these teachings, the next stage is about internalizing those teachings. This is done through Manana. The student reflects upon the teachings again and again until, his doubts are cleared. He may even ask his teacher for clarification.

The sustained Manana results in a clarity in the mind regarding the teachings of the scriptures. But, this clarity or understanding is only intellectual or theoretical. To convert this indirect knowledge into direct realization (Aparoksha), one must then practice Nidhidhyasa or meditation on the teachings of the scriptures. This meditation is usually done on the essence of Mahavakyas.

It is important to note that, this Nidhidhyasa is different from mere reflection or thinking about the meaning of a verse. Nidhidhyasa is also different from Dhyana, which is usually translated as meditation. This Nidhidhyasa is actually what Adi Shankara or Ramana Maharshi call as “Vichara” (Self-Enquiry).

The Self-Enquiry or Niddhidhyasa consists in a person contemplating on the identity of Atman and Brahman, by slowly transcending the false identification with the body and mind. This may even involve the practice of Dharana (concentration on an object) and Dhyana (meditation on the object) of Yoga. In Yoga, the mind is further allowed to still itself, so that the Atman as a subject alone shines forth.

But, by Niddhidhyasa, the student goes one step further. By contemplating on Atman as being non-different from Brahman, the student after stilling the mind goes beyond the state of the subject.

This direct realization of the Non-dual Atman who is beyond the duality of subject-object is called as Atma-Jnana. And this Jnana then liberates (Moksha) such a person.

Therefore, without this self-inquiry, no amount of study of scriptures, or practice of Yoga postures will lead to Self-realization because the theoretical understanding of the scriptures or Yoga postures cannot remove false identifications. Only when the mind stilled, and the duality of subject and object is dissolved, the true nature of Atman is revealed. Thus, self-inquiry alone leads to Self-realization.

More in this segment:
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 12

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

0
//
44
Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.