Saturday January 19, 2019

Self-Enquiry leads to Self-Realization

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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

Next Story

Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

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Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

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Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.