Tuesday June 25, 2019

Self-Realization alone leads to Moksha

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Photo: www.frequency.com

By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 12

Photo Credit: memyinnerthoughts.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: memyinnerthoughts.blogspot.com

God is central to all religious traditions. The conception of this God which is referred by the term ‘Brahman’ in Hinduism is very different from the conception of God in Semitic religions.

In the last two installments, the two questions: “Where is God?” and “How to define God?” were taken up. In this installment, let us look into another important question: “How to reach/realize God?”

It was pointed out before, that Brahman is both transcendent and immanent and He exists both beyond the universe as well as within the hearts of every creature. And attaining unity with this Brahman is termed as ‘Moksha’ or liberation.

Conventionally, Moksha is described as “liberation of an Individual from the cycle of birth and death.” So, transcending death and never returning back to this Karmic cycle is the hallmark of Moksha. It must be pointed out that death need not refer to only the discarding of the physical body. Death is the best metaphor to denote change. Through death, an individual moves from one body to another, from one life to another, and from one realm to another.

Therefore, transcending death truly means transcending these changes and attaining a state of eternal changeless existence. This eternal changeless existence is nothing but Brahman itself, which is described as changeless existence (Satyam), objectless awareness (Jnanam), and part-less Infinity (Anantham) by the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1).

So, how does an individual who is endowed with a body and mind, which by its very nature is very limited in its existence and awareness, attain the supreme state? Svetashwatara Upanishad (3.8) says:

vedAhametaM puruShaM mahAntamAdityavarNaM tamasaH parastAt |

tamEva viditva atimrutyumeti nAnyaH panthA vidhyate ayanAya ||

Translation: I have realized this Great Being (mahAt puruShaM) who shines like the sun, and who is beyond darkness of ignorance (tamasaH). Only by realizing Him one can transcend death and there is no other path than this.

This mantra is very significant. It says that there is no other way to transcend death and attain Moksha other than ‘realization of Brahman.’ Therefore, one can attain Brahman, only by the realization of Brahman. In other words, Moksha does not involve going to any realms of existence, be it realm of Gods, or forefathers, or that of Hiranyagarbha.

It is stressed that, though Moksha is portrayed as the ultimate goal of life, it is not a goal in the sense of travelling to some place, or attaining some powers, or some high meditation state. Instead, it is saying, that Moksha is nothing but the realization of the true nature of Brahman (which is called as BrahmaJnana or Atma Jnana).

In the previous installments, we saw that Brahman stays in the Hrdaya (hearts) of all beings as their innermost Atman/Self. Hence, realization of Brahman is nothing but realization of Brahman in one’s own Atman. The Vedanta teachers call this “BrahmaAtmaAikyam” i.e. perceiving the unity and non-difference of Brahman and Atman, God and Innermost Self.

Therefore, we can refine our understandings of Moksha further and define it as “being established in one’s own Innermost Atman, which (being non-different from Brahman) is by very nature existence, awareness, infinite, and blissful (anandam).” And the only way to attain this Atman and become established in it is through Atma-Jnana, the realization of the innermost Self.

Photo Credit: krishnaunlimited.com
Photo Credit: krishnaunlimited.com

Adi Shankaracharya also stresses this point in his Vivekachoodamani. He says (verse 413): “Meditate on that Atman which is your Self, which is devoid of all limitations, which is verily existence, knowledge, and bliss Absolute and is non-dual. (By this) you will no longer be under the influence of birth and death.” Hence, Shankaracharya also asserts that it is only by realization of the Self through meditation on the Self, that one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death.

There is one issue that needs to be dealt with here. A question may arise, why do the scriptures say Moksha is possible only through the Knowledge/Realization of Self? How is knowledge connected to liberation from birth and death?

Hindu scriptures point out that, the very creation of the world has been accomplished by Brahman through his mysterious power of Maya. Using this Maya, Brahman who is Birthless, Changeless, and Limitless appears as taking birth, undergoing changes, and subjected to limitations. Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (4.6) states that: “Though I am Birthless, Undecaying by nature, and the Lord of beings, (still) by subjugating My Prakriti, I take birth by means of My own Maya.” (Swami Gambirananda’s translation). The same has been expressed in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.5.19) that says: “Lord on account of Maya, appears as manifold.”

Therefore, the manifestation of the Universe and all its objects is not a real and permanent creation or transformation. Instead, it is only an apparent manifestation. Just as a mirage makes water appear where there is no water. Similarly, through Maya, one Infinite Brahman appears as multiple objects, each of them subjected to various limitations. It is for this reason, the Universe is described as product of Ignorance or Avidya. Here, the ignorance, refers to the ignorance of the true nature of Atman. An Individual identifies his self with his body, his possessions, and his mind. These false identifications arise because of the ignorance that his true Self, the Atman is beyond the limitations of the body and the mind.

As the ignorance is the root-cause of this world and the cycle of birth and death, the only way it is possible to transcend this karmic cycle is by realization of the true Atman, by which the ignorance is destroyed. It is for this reason the scriptures stress that only through the realization of Atman, that one can attain Moksha.

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

Next Story

Personal Encounter with ‘God’ May Bring Long-lasting Health

About 75 per cent of the respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their “God encounter” experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime

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new beginning
12th-century Brahma with missing book and water pot, Cambodia. (Wikipedia)

A personal encounter with the “ultimate reality” or God — spontaneous or under the influence of a psychedelic drug — can bring positive changes in psycho’logical health even decades after the initial experience, says an interesting study.

In a survey of thousands of people who reported having experienced personal encounters with God, researchers from Johns Hopkins University report that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or while taking a psychedelic.

The findings, described in a paper in the journal PLOS ONE, add to evidence that such deeply meaningful experiences may have healing properties.

“Experiences that people describe as encounters with God or a representative of God have been reported for thousands of years, and they likely form the basis of many of the world’s religions,” said lead researcher Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine.

“Although modern Western medicine doesn’t typically consider ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ experiences as one of the tools in the arsenal against sickness, our findings suggest that these encounters often lead to improvements in mental health,” he argued.

People over the millennia have reported having deeply moving religious experiences either spontaneously or while under the influence of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms or the Amazonian brew ayahuasca.

This chance occurrence had forever immortalized the Feline species as being irrevocably intertwined with Goddess worship.
Idol of Goddess Durga.

The researchers say a majority of respondents attributed lasting positive changes in their psychological health — life satisfaction, purpose and meaning — even decades after their initial experience.

For the new study, the scientists used data from 4,285 people worldwide who responded to online advertisements to complete one of two 50-minute online surveys about God encounter experiences.

The surveys asked participants to recall their single most memorable encounter experience with the “God of their understanding,” a “higher power,” “ultimate reality” or “an aspect or representative of God, such as an angel.” They also asked how respondents felt about their experience and whether and how it changed their lives.

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Of those who reported using a psychedelic, 1,184 took psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), 1,251 said they took LSD, 435 said they took ayahuasca (a plant-based brew originating with indigenous cultures in Latin America), and 606 said they took DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), also a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants and animals.

About 75 per cent of the respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their “God encounter” experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime. (IANS)