Vivekachudamani as translated by Sri Ramana Maharshi
For the advanced metaphysical aspirant
THE TRUE SELF
“Now I am going to tell you about the real nature of the Supreme Self, by realising which, man attains liberation and is freed from bondage. That realisation of “I” is indeed the Self which is experienced as “I-I” shining of its own accord, the Absolute Being, the Witness of the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, distinct from the five sheaths, aware of the mental modes in the waking and dream states, and of their absence in the state of deep sleep. That Self sees all of its own accord but is never seen by any of these. It gives light to the intellect and ego but is not enlightened by them. It pervades the universe and by its light all this insentient universe is illumined, but the universe does not pervade it even to the slightest extent. In its presence the body, senses, mind and intellect enter upon their functions as if commanded by it. By that unbroken knowledge, all things from the ego to the body, objects and our experience of them, occur and are perceived. By it life and the various organs are set in motion. That inner Self, as the primeval Spirit, Eternal, ever-effulgent, full and Infinite bliss, single, indivisible, Whole and living, shines in everyone as the witnessing Awareness. That Self in its splendour, shining in the cavity of the Heart as the subtle, pervasive yet unmanifest ether, illumines this universe like the sun. It is aware of the modifications of the mind and ego, of the actions of the body, sense organs and life-breath. It takes their form as fire does that of a heated ball of iron; yet it undergoes no change in doing so. This Self is neither born nor dies, it neither grows nor decays, nor does it suffer any change. When a pot is broken the space inside it is not, and similarly, when the body dies, the Self in it remains Eternal. It is distinct from the causal maya and its effects. It is pure knowledge. It illumines Being and non-being alike and is without attributes. It is the Witness of the intellect in the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. It shines as “I-I”, as ever-present, direct experience. Know that Supreme Self by means of a one-pointed mind and know “This “I” is Brahman”. Thus through the intellect you may know the Self in yourself, by yourself, and by this means cross the ocean of birth and death and become one who has achieved his life purpose and ever remain as the Self.
“Mistaking the body or not-I for the Self or I, is the cause of all misery, that is, of all bondage. This bondage comes through ignorance of the cause of birth and death, for it is through ignorance that men regard these insentient bodies as real, mistaking them for the Self and sustaining them with sense objects and finally getting destroyed by them, just as the silkworm protects itself by the threads that it emits, but is finally destroyed by them. For those who mistake the rope for a serpent, the integral pure effulgence of the pristine state is veiled by tamas, just as the dragon’s head covers the sun in an eclipse, and as a result, the Spirit [Purusha] forgets his reality. He is devoured by the dragon of delusion and, mistaking the non-Self for the Self, is overpowered by mental states and submerged in the fathomless ocean of samsara full of the poison of sense enjoyments, and, now sinking, now rising, he finds no way of escape. Such are the torments caused by the projecting power of rajas together with the veiling of tamas. Just as the layers of clouds caused by the rays of the sun increase until they hide the sun itself, so the bondage of ego caused by ignorance in the Self expands until it hides that very Self. Just as frost and cold winds torment one on a wintry day when the sun is hidden by clouds, so too when tamas covers the Self, the projecting power of rajas deludes the ignorant into mistaking the non-Self for the Self and torments them with many sorrows. So it is by these two powers alone that the Self has been brought into bondage. Of this tree of samsara, tamas is the seed, the “I am the body” idea is the shoot, desire is the young leaf, activity the water that makes it grow, the body the trunk, a man’s successive lives the branches, the sense organs the twigs, sense objects the flowers, and diverse sorrows caused by activity the fruit. The ego is the bird sitting in the tree and enjoying its fruit.
“This bondage of the non-Self, born of ignorance, causing endless sorrow through birth, death, and old age, is without beginning, yet its complete destruction can be brought about in the way that I will tell you. Have faith in the Vedas and perform all the actions prescribed by them without seeking for any gain from doing so. This will give you purity of mind. With this pure mind, meditate incessantly and by doing so you will directly know the Self. This Self-knowledge is the keen sword that cuts asunder the bonds. No other weapon or contrivance is capable of destroying them, nor wind nor fire nor countless actions.
“The Self is covered over by the five sheaths caused by the power of ignorance. It is hidden from sight like the water of a pond covered with weeds. When the weeds are removed the water is revealed and can be used by man to quench his thirst and cool him from the heat. In the same way, by process of elimination, you should with keen intellect discard the objective five sheaths from the Self as “not this, not this”. Know the Self distinct from the body and from all forms, like a stalk of grass in its sheaths of leaf. Know It as Eternal, pure, single in its essence, unattached, with no duties to perform, ever blissful and self-effulgent. He who is liberated realises that all objective reality, which is superimposed on the Self as the idea of a serpent is on the rope, is really no other than the Self, and he himself is the Self. Therefore the wise aspirant should undertake discrimination between the Self and the non-Self. Of the five sheaths [food, life-breath, mind, intellect, and bliss], the gross body is created out of food, increasing by eating it and perishing when there is none. It is the sheath of food. Compounded of skin, blood, flesh, fat, marrow, excreta, and urine, it is most filthy. It has no existence before birth or after death but appears between them. It undergoes change every moment. There is no set law governing that change. It is an object, like a pot, is insentient and has a variety of forms. It is acted upon by other forces. The Self, on the other hand, is distinct from this body and is single, Eternal, and pure. It is indestructible, though the body with its limbs is destroyed. The Self is the Witness who knows the characteristics of the body, its modes of activity and its three states. It is self-aware and directs the body. Such being the contrast between the body and the Self, how can the body be the Self? The fool thinks of it as the Self. The man of wise action with some measure of discrimination, takes body and soul together for “I”, but the really wise man who conducts the enquiry with firm discrimination knows himself always as the Supreme Brahman, the Being which is of its own nature. The “I am the body” idea is the seed of all sorrow. Therefore, just as you do not identify yourself with your shadow body, image body, dream body, or the body that you have in your imagination, cease also to associate the Self in any way with the body of skin, flesh, and bones. Make every effort to root out this error and holding fast to the knowledge of reality as the Absolute Brahman, destroy the mind and obtain Supreme peace. Then you will have no more births. Even a learned scholar who perfectly understands the meaning of Vedanta has no hope of liberation if, owing to delusion, he cannot give up the idea of the non-existent body as the Self.
“Now we come to the vital body of prana, which is the life-breath with the five organs of action. The aforementioned sheath of food enters upon its course of activity when filled by this vital force. It is nothing but a modification of air, and like air it enters into the body and comes out of it. It does not know its own desires and antipathies or those of others. It is eternally dependent on the Self. Therefore the vital body cannot be the Self.
“The mental sheath is the mind with its organs of knowledge. This is the cause of the wrong concept of the Self as “I” and “mine”. It is very powerful, being endowed with diversity of thought-forms, beginning with the “I”-thought. It fills and pervades the vital sheath. The ever-blazing fire of the mental sheath is consuming this whole world, lit by the five sense organs as sacrificial priests, fed by sense objects as the fuel, and kept ablaze by the latent tendencies. There is no ignorance apart from the mind. It is the cause of the bondage of birth and death. With the emergence of the mind everything arises, and with its subsidence everything ceases. In the dream state, in which there are no objects, the mind creates its dream world of enjoyers and others, by its own powers. Similarly, all that it perceives in the waking state is its own display. It is the experience of all that nothing appears when the mind subsides in deep sleep. Therefore the bondage of samsara is only superimposed on the Self by the mind. Actually it has no reality. Just as the wind gathers the clouds in the sky and then disperses them, so the mind causes the bondage but also causes liberation. The mind first creates in man an attachment to the body and to all sense objects, with the result that he is bound by his attachment like a beast tethered by a rope. Under the influence of rajas and tamas it is enfeebled and entangles man in desire for the body and objects, but under the influence of sattva it breaks away from rajas and tamas and attains to non-attachment and discrimination and rejects sense objects as though they were poison. Therefore the wise seeker after liberation must first establish himself in discrimination and desirelessness. The mind is a great tiger roaming wild in the huge jungle of sense objects. Therefore aspirants should keep away from it. It is only the mind that conjures up before the Self subtle and gross objects and all the variations of body, caste, and station in life, qualities and action, causes and effects. So doing, it tempts and deludes the Self, which is really unattached pure intelligence, binding it by the qualities of body, senses, and life and deluding it with the idea of “I” and “mine” in the fruits of action that it creates. By means of this false representation, the mind creates the myth of samsara [bondage] for the spirit. This is the primal cause of the sorrow of birth and death which binds those who are subject to the faults of rajas and tamas and lack discrimination. Just as cloud masses revolve through the air, so does the whole world revolve through the delusion of the mind. Therefore, those who know reality declare that the mind is ignorance. He who seeks liberation must examine his mind by his own efforts and once the mind is purified by such introspection liberation is obtained and appears obvious and natural. Out of desire for liberation you should root out all other desires, renounce activity and take to perpetual preoccupation with Truth [through sravana and manana] which will lead on to perpetual meditation [nididhyasana]. Then alone can the waves of the mind be stilled. Therefore even this mind sheath cannot be the real Self, since it has a beginning and an end, and is subject to modifications and characterised by pain and grief, and is an object of perception.
“The intellect with the five organs of knowledge is the vijnana maya sheath and is also the cause of bondage for the spirit. It is a modification of the unmanifest, beginningless Self which has assumed the form of the ego and conducts all activities through the reflected light of consciousness. It is the conscious agent of activity and its attributes are intelligence and actions. It regards the body and senses as “I” and their mode of life, duties, actions, and qualities as “mine”. It performs good or evil actions as dictated by its previous tendencies, and as a result of these actions attains to higher or lower regions and wanders there until it is attracted to rebirth in some enticing womb. It experiences the states of waking, dream, and deep sleep and the pleasant and painful fruits of its actions. Within this sheath of knowledge, the Self throbs as the self-effulgent Light, the Supreme Soul, homogeneous, the Truth, all-pervasive, complete, immutable, the Supreme Lord. Yet the Self assumes limitations through the false superimposition of the intellect on it in this sheath, because this is close to it, and in fact the closest of its adjuncts. As a result it is deluded into thinking that it is this sheath. Just as a pot might seem to be different from its clay, so it imagines itself to be different from itself, to be the agent and the enjoyer, and seems to be limited in such ways, although it is like the fire in a ball of hot iron, unaffected by the shape of the ball.”
In answer to the Guru, the disciple says: “Master, I accept your statement that, whether through delusion or not, the Supreme Self has come to regard itself as the ego. But since this superimposition of the ego-concept is beginningless, it cannot be supposed to have an end either. How, then, can there be liberation? But if there is no liberation the ego-concept becomes Eternal and bondage also becomes Eternal. Pray enlighten me on this point.”
To this the master replies: “That is a good question, my learned disciple. Now listen with one-pointed mind to my explanation. Whatever has been conjured up by delusion must be examined in the pure light of reason. Things appear real as long as the delusion lasts and perish as unreal and non-existent as soon as it passes, just like illusion of a serpent seen in a piece of rope and appearing real as long as the illusion lasts. Really the Self is unattached, actionless, characterless, immutable, formless, being-consciousness-bliss [sat-chit-ananda], the inner Witness. It has no sort of relationship with anything. To think that it has is a mere delusion like the appearance of blue in the sky. The false attitude of the ego to the Self is due to the relationship with the beginningless false vehicle, but even this sense of relationship is the result of delusion. Although this attitude of the ego to the Self is without a beginning, that does not make it real. Just as water becomes clear as soon as the dirt is removed from it, so is it with the Self when the effects of the ego and its false adjuncts are dropped from it and ignorance disappears through discrimination between Self and non-Self. Then appears the true self-effulgent knowledge of the oneness of God and Self.
“The discarding of the beginningless ignorance with its cause and effects and bodies and states, is like the ending of the beginningless non-existence, or the ending of a dream when the waking state supervenes. Liberation from the bondage of the false ego concept can never come about except through knowledge acquired by discrimination between the Self and the non-Self. Therefore you also must discriminate in order to remove the non-existent ego. Even this intellectual sheath is subject to change, insentient, a part of a whole, and an object of perception and therefore it cannot be the Atman. Can the non-eternal ever become Eternal?
“Coming now to the sheath of bliss: this is only a modification of ignorance on which the Supreme Self is reflected. It reveals itself at will in all three states, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and yields the different modes of bliss from perceiving, obtaining, and experiencing things. It is experienced effortlessly by all to some extent in deep sleep, but sadhus who have practised discrimination, experience the bliss of it perpetually without effort and its fullness in the deep sleep state. However, even this sheath of bliss cannot be the Supreme Self, since it is subject to change and possesses attributes. It is the effect of past good deeds and a modification of prakriti and it abides in the other sheaths which are themselves also modifications. If, by the rejection of false ideas, all five sheaths are eliminated, the Self alone is experienced as “I-I”. It alone remains, Whole and Self-aware, distinct from the five sheaths, the Witness of the three states, self-effulgent, immutable, untainted, everlasting bliss. It is like Devadatta [random name taken simply as an illustration] who neither is the pot nor partakes of its nature but is only the witness. The Self is not the five sheaths, which are objects, nor does It partake of their nature, but is a mere Witness of them.”
To this the disciple replies: “O master, after rejecting the five sheaths as unreal, I find nothing remaining except the Void, so what is there to be known as “I-I”, as the Truth of the Self?”
The Guru replies: “O learned one, you are skilful in discrimination and have spoken the Truth. The rule of enquiry or perception is: “That which is perceived by something else has the latter for its witness. When there is no agent of perception there can be no question of the thing having been perceived at all.” Accordingly, the Self, as Awareness, cognises not only itself but also the existence of the ego with its various modifications of the transient names and forms and their nescience. Therefore it is the Self which is their Witness. Beyond It there is nothing to know. It is aware of Itself through Its own effulgence and so is Its own Witness. It is single and immutable in the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. It makes Itself known as being-consciousness-bliss and is self-effulgent in the Heart as “I-I”. Through your keen intellect, know this Eternal blissful Awareness to be the Self or “I”. The fool takes the reflection of the sun in the water of a pot to be the sun; the wise man eliminates pot, water, and reflection and knows the sun in the sky as it really is, single and unaffected, but illuminating all three. In the same way the fool, through error and misperception, identifies himself with the ego and its reflected light experienced through the medium of the intellect. The wise and discriminating man eliminates body, intellect, and reflected light of consciousness, and probes deeply into his real Self which illuminates all three, while remaining uniform in the ether of the Heart. Thereby he realises the Eternal Witness which is Absolute knowledge, illuminating all. It is subtle and all-pervasive, neither being nor non-being, with neither inside nor outside, and is self-effulgent. Realising this, he is set free from the impurities of the ego. He has no more birth or death. He is free from sorrow and becomes the immutable essence of established bliss. The jnani who, through experience, has realised his Self to be the Brahman as it really is, as Truth, knowledge [jnana], endless bliss, the single essence, Eternal, boundless, pure, unattached, and indivisible, not only does not return to bondage but is that Brahman Itself, the Advaita. That is to say that knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Self is the prime cause of release from bondage. For him who aspires after liberation there is no other way of release from bondage but knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Self. Therefore you too, by your own experience, know your Self as always “I am Brahman”, “Brahman am I”, “Brahman alone am I”.
“Since there is nothing other than Brahman, it is the Supreme Advaita. The pot which is made of clay, has no other form than that of the clay. No one can show the pot except by means of the clay. The pot is only a delusion of the imagination and exists only in name, since it has no other reality than that of the clay. Similarly the whole universe is a superimposition [of form] on the Brahman although it seems to be separate from it. The substratum of Brahman appears through the delusion of the superimposition. The latter is really non-existent, like the serpent seen in the rope. The manifest is only an illusion. The silver seen in the substratum of the mother-of-pearl has no existence apart from it but is the mother-of-pearl itself. Similarly, manifestation has no existence apart from its substratum of Brahman. Whatever, O sadhu, appears to the deluded as the manifested world of names and forms, on account of their ignorance and wrong knowledge, whatever objectivity appears as real, all this, when truly realised as it is, is the effect of Brahman, and is superimposed on the substratum of Brahman. Only owing to delusion it appears to be real and it is Brahman, its substratum, which appears to be superimposed on it. Really all these names and forms are nothing at all. They are a myth pure and simple and have no existence apart from their substratum of Brahman. They are nothing but the being-consciousness-bliss which neither rises nor sets. If it were contended that the manifested world has any existence apart from Brahman, that would impair the infinity of Brahman. It would also contradict the authority of the Atharva Veda which declares in unequivocal terms, “All this world is indeed Brahman”. It would also make out the omniscient Lord as having uttered a falsehood when He said: “All these elements are not in Me. I, the indivisible Whole, am not in them.” The mahatmas, who are true sadhus, would not countenance these contradictions. Furthermore, the outer world does not exist in the state of deep sleep, and, if investigated, it is seen to be unreal, like the dream world. Therefore any such statement made by fools as that the manifested world has its own existence apart from its substratum of Brahman, is as false as the idle words of a man talking in his sleep. It is Brahman Itself which shines everywhere, uniform and complete. This Truth the enlightened [jnanis] know as the One without a second, formless, inactive, unmanifest, never to be destroyed, having no beginning or end. It is Truth, absolute purity, the essence of pure bliss. It contains none of the internal differences which are the creation of maya. It is Eternal, continuous, immaculately pure, spotless, nameless, undifferentiated, self-effulgent, beyond the triads of knower-knowledge-known, absolute, pure, unbroken consciousness, ever-shining.
“My beloved disciple, this Self can neither be held nor given up. It is beyond perception and utterance. It is immeasurable without beginning or end. This infinity of Brahman is my Self and yours and that of other individuals. Great texts such as “That thou art” reveal the identity between the Brahman known as “That” and the individual known as “thou”. The identity is not shown by the literal meaning of “That” and “thou”. The literal meaning of “That” is Ishwara’s maya which is the cause of the universe, and the literal meaning of “thou” is the five sheaths of the ego. These are non-existent superimpositions, the cause and effect of non-existent phantoms. Their qualities are opposite to each other, like the sun and the glowworm, the king and the slave, the ocean and the well, Mount Meru and the atom. There can be no identity between Brahman and the individual in the literal sense of “That” and “thou”, and it is not in this way that the scriptures postulate the identity.
[The science of the secondary meaning of words is called lakshana and is of three kinds. The first is called jahat-ajahat-lakshana. In the first, the primary sense of a term is rejected and the secondary retained; in the second, the primary sense is retained and the secondary rejected; in the third, the primary sense is only partly rejected and partly retained.] [This passage in brackets is inserted by the editor.] Of these three, we can omit the first two as being of no use for our purpose and take the third. According to this, in a text such as “He is that Devadatta” we eliminate the contradictory aspects of Devadatta manifested at different places and times, and concentrate on the identity of Devadatta himself irrespective of place and time. Similarly, in the text in question, we eliminate the non-existent, objective, contradictory attributes of “That” and “thou” as “not this, not this” [am I]. You can do this on the authority of the Vedas which reject the duality superimposed on Brahman, and also by your own intelligence. If attributes such as a shield for a royal person and a badge of ownership for a slave are removed, both alike belong to the genus man. Similarly the text [about “That” and “thou”] declares the natural identity between Ishwara and the individual in their residuary aspect of consciousness apart from the forms of Ishwara and individual. There is no contradiction in this, since consciousness is the unbroken, single essence of both. Through the touch of the mahatmas, know this blessed identity of Brahman and Self by rejecting as “not I” the non-existent body. Know by your own clear intellect that Brahman is your Self, self-existent, subtle as the ether, ever-radiant, True, Awareness, bliss, indivisible and Whole.
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“Truly, “Thou art That”, the Self that is non-dual Brahman, pure and exquisitely serene, the Truth apart from which nothing is. This is so because, even in this waking state, the world and the body with its sense and the ego which, owing to ignorance, seems to be separate from the Self, and the life breath are pure myth. “Thou art That” because in the dream state, time, space and objects and the knower of them are all created by sleep and are purely illusory. “Thou art That” because this whole world emanates from Brahman, which alone IS, and is Brahman itself, just as pots come from clay and are clay itself and indeed are made of clay. That Brahman is untouched by the sixfold changes of birth, youth, growth, old age, decay, and death. It has no caste or custom, tribe or family, name or form. It is without attributes. It has neither merit nor demerit, neither mental nor physical afflictions. It is free from the six evils of hunger, thirst, sorrow, delusion, old age and death. It has no time, space or objectivity. It cannot be described by words. The gross mind cannot reach it. It can be comprehended only by the eye of wisdom and experienced in the Heart of the yogi, in his very being, not by the use of any organ. It is the substratum of the illusory world that seems to be superimposed on it. It is the cause of the emanation, preservation, and reabsorption of the world. It is the supreme cause, which itself has no cause; all the worlds of name and form are its effects, and yet it is distinct from cause and effect. It is distinct from being and non-being. Although, owing to delusion, it appears like gold in its varying aspects of name and form and its modifications, yet it has no name or form, no attributes or modifications. It contains no disequilibrium. It is still, like a waveless ocean. It is Eternal, formless, spotless, incomparable, ever free, indestructible, pure, without beginning. It is that beyond which there is nothing. It is complete, not compounded of elements or of parts. It is being-consciousness-bliss, uniform, indivisible bliss. It is single in essence. That Brahman which is all this, “That thou art”. Meditate on the Truth [of this] in your Heart continuously, without break, calmly, with reason and keen intellect. Thus you will obtain essential knowledge free from doubt, as clear as water in the palm of the hand. Knowledge in the body with its faculties is like a king in the midst of his vast army, and that knowledge is the Self and is Brahman. Know this by discrimination. Regard all other separate things as This Itself and remain ever as this Self. Thus remaining, you will attain bliss and peace of Being.
“In the cavity of the intellect is the single Truth of Brahman, distinct from being and non-being. He who remains eternally as that Truth Itself is never drawn back again to birth in the body.
“Although a man knows this to be true, the feeling of “I am the doer”, “I am the enjoyer” arises strongly in him owing to the bondage [samsara] caused by the mighty, beginningless vasanas [innate tendencies] which often obstruct him. Curb these tendencies the moment they arise, by your own efforts, by abiding firmly in the Self, by a vision of the Self. Sages such as Vasishta have declared that the withering of the vasanas is indeed liberation. Realisation of the Self as it is does not come through tendencies to worldly or sense activity or through prolonged study of the scriptures. To those who seek deliverance from the prison or ocean of samsara, the above threefold tendencies are iron fetters, say those who are realised. Therefore attachment to the world, the scriptures, and the body must be given up and it must be fully realised that the body is sustained by the force of prarabdha [past karma]. You should, therefore, courageously renounce these attachments and strive energetically to overcome tamas by the power of sattva and rajas, then rajas through mixed sattva, then mixed sattva through pure sattva. You should do this with a firm and calm mind, helped by the great texts such as “That thou art” which proclaim the identity between the individual self and Brahman. Seek by reasoning and experience to get rid of the vasanas, so that you may have firm faith in Brahman and completely root out from the body and senses, the feeling of “I” and “mine” which constantly appears as a result of the superimposition. This is to be done by firm abidance in the one indivisible Self in the Heart and by meditating on the unceasing experience of knowledge of the unity of Brahman and Self thus: “I am not the ego. I am the unceasing perfection of Brahman experienced as I, the Witness of thought forms.” This meditation must be persisted in until the ego sense is completely rooted out from the body without a vestige, and the world of individuals appears like a dream. He who meditates has no work to do except beg and perform his natural functions. He must never forget the Self by giving room for worldly speech and sense objects. Sandalwood is fragrant by nature, but its fragrance is masked by a bad smell when it comes into contact with water and is revealed when it is rubbed. Constant practice of meditation is this rubbing. The latent tendencies of the mind are removed, only to the extent to which it abides in the Self. It is by such constant abidance in the Self that the mind of the yogi is destroyed. And by the destruction of the mind the outer non-self tendencies of the Heart are utterly eradicated. Then the experience of the Supreme Self, which was formerly veiled by the magic of the vasanas, shines forth of its own accord like the fragrance of uncontaminated sandal-paste.
“In whatever way it may be examined, the ego with all its faculties turns out to be unreal, a momentary limitation, inert, insentient and incapable of realising the One. The Supreme Self is different from both gross and subtle bodies. It is the Witness of the ego with its faculties and exists always, even in deep sleep. The texts say: “It is birthless and deathless.” It is immutable and distinct alike from being and non-being. The ego can never be the real Self, the true meaning of “I”. Keep aloof from this impure body as you would from an outcast. Give up the sense of “I” in the gross body and all attachment due to the mind, attachments to name and form, tribe and family, caste and social order. Give up also the attachment to the subtle body and its nature and sense of being the doer. Find the feeling of “I” in the Self, which is Truth, knowledge, and Eternity. Just as the air in a pot is part of the air outside, so conceive of the Self as that self-effulgent Brahman which is the substratum of all, in which the world is seen reflected like a city in a mirror or like shadows cast. Think of yourself as “That I am”, without parts, without form, without activity, without duality, unending, being-consciousness-bliss. Know the Self as it really is. Give up this false physical self just as an actor gives up his role and remains himself. By knowledge acquired through Self-enquiry discard both microcosm and macrocosm as unreal and, abiding in the unbroken stillness, remain ever at rest in the perfect bliss as unqualified Brahman. Thus obtain Supreme peace, which is the purpose of life.
“Though various obstacles contribute to the bondage of the soul, the primary cause of them all is the rising of the false ego-sense. It is through the superimposition of the ego on the Self that this bondage of birth, death and sorrow has come upon you who are by nature being-consciousness-bliss, of boundless glory, Eternal, single in essence, unchanging. By nature you have no such bondage. Just as there can be no sound health so long as the effect of a little poison in the body continues, so there can be no liberation so long as identification with the ego continues. Knowledge of the identity of the self with Brahman is clearly revealed as soon as the ego is completely destroyed without residue, together with the illusion of multiplicity caused by the veiling of tamas. Therefore, by investigation into the nature of the unattached Self, discover the Truth of your own Self, complete, perfect, self-effulgent and ever-blissful. He who is freed from the ego shines eternally as the Self, like the full moon, radiant when delivered from the dragon’s head [of eclipse]. In the field of the Heart the terrible cobra of the ego is coiled round the bliss of the Self to which it denies access with the threefold hood of the gunas. These three fearful heads of the serpent of ego are to be severed, in accordance with the scriptures, only by great courage with the mighty sword of actual experience of the Self. He who has thus destroyed the three-hooded serpent can obtain and enjoy the vast treasure of the bliss of Brahman. Therefore you, too, give up the “I”-sense in the ego, which appears like being and assumes that it is the doer, whereas it is only the reflected light of the Self. Turn inwards all the thought-forms that adhere to the ego. He is an enemy of yours, so kill him with the sword of knowledge. He has been harming you like a thorn in your throat while eating. Give up all desires in order to realise your state as the Supreme Self. Enjoy the kingdom of the Self, be perfect, be still in the stillness of the immutable state of Brahman.
“The ego may in this way be killed, but if thought is given to it even for a moment it revives and engages in activity, driving a man before it as the wind drives winter clouds. Remember that he who associates the “I”-sense with the body and its faculties is bound while he who does not is liberated.
“Thoughts of sense objects create a sense of differentiation and thereby cause the bondage of birth and death. Therefore no quarter should be given to the ego, who is the enemy who has such thoughts. Just as a withered lime tree puts out new leaves if watered, so the ego revives through thoughts of sense objects. The increase of effects makes their seed or cause flourish, while the decay of effects destroys their cause also; therefore you should first destroy the effects. If thoughts, which are the effect, flourish, the ego with its tendencies, which is the cause, also flourishes. From thoughts, outer activities arise, and from these two together the tendencies develop and create the bondage to which souls are subject. In order to escape from this, thoughts, activity, and tendencies must all three be abolished. The best way of doing this is to hold firmly to the view that, “All this that appears as separate names and forms is Brahman Itself.” This view must be held to at all times and places and in all states. Firm holding to this attitude reduces activity, and this results in a decline of thoughts, which in turn destroys the latent tendencies. Destruction of the latent tendencies is indeed deliverance. Therefore develop this helpful tendency to regard everything as Brahman. The result will be that the frail tendencies of the ego will disappear like darkness before the sun. Just as darkness with all its dismal effects disappears before the rising sun, so bondage with all its sorrows will pass away without a trace when the sun of advaitic experience rises. Therefore regard all objective manifestation as Brahman and hold firm in a state of peace [samadhi] and inner and outer beatitude [nischala bhava] as long as the bondage due to your past destiny [karma] lasts. While doing so, always remember: “That immovable bliss of Brahman itself am I.”
“This abidance as Brahman must never be relaxed, for if it is, a false notion of Truth will result which is indeed death, as says Bhagavan Sri Sanatsujata, the son of Brahma. Such a false notion of Truth due to swerving from the state of abidance in Truth introduces delusion; from delusion arises the attribution of “I” to the ego and its objects, from this bondage, and from bondage sorrow. Therefore there is no greater misfortune for the enlightened than wrong understanding and swerving from Reality. Just as water plants, though removed from a pool of water, do not stay at the side but cover it over again, so if a man is exteriorised, even though he may be enlightened, if maya [illusion] once begins to shroud him he will be swayed in numerous ways by the false intellect. This is due to his lapse from watchfulness, his forgetting of his true state, his going out towards sense objects. He is like a man swayed and dominated by a lewd woman, of whom he is enamoured. If, through wrong understanding and swerving from Reality, a man’s consciousness slips even the least bit from the target of his own Self, it will enter into outer things and leap from one to another as a ball slips from your hand and rolls down a flight of stairs. It will begin to consider outer experiences good for it and thence will arise the desire to enjoy them. That will lead to participation in them, which in turn will destroy his abidance in the Self, with the result that he will sink into depths from which he can never more arise and will be destroyed. Therefore there is no greater danger in Brahman-consciousness than wrong understanding, which means swerving from one’s true state. Only he who has the Eternal state of consciousness [nishta] obtains realisation [siddhi] and so renounces the manifestation [sankalpa] born of pramada and of relaxation from practice. Such wrong understanding is the cause of all spiritual decline [anartha]. Therefore be the swarupa nishta who abides ever in the Self.
“He who has attained liberation in the state of Brahman while still alive will shine so in his bodiless state also. It says in the Yajur Veda: “He who has even the slightest sense of differentiation is always afraid!” He who sees any attributes of differentiation, however small, in the absolute Brahman, will for that reason remain in a state of terror. He who locates the “I”-sense in the insentient body and its objects, so despised by the various scriptures and their commentaries, will experience sorrow after sorrow like the sinner who commits unlawful acts. We can see from the discrimination between thieves and honest men that he who is devoted to truth escapes misfortune and achieves success, while he who is devoted to falsehood perishes. [This refers to trial by ordeal, placing a hot iron in the hand of a suspected thief, who is burnt if guilty but not if innocent.] We also see that shutting out external objects gives the mind a clear perception of the Self, which in turn results in the destruction of the bondage of samsara. Therefore the abandonment of all objective reality is the way to deliverance. If a man discriminates between Truth and non-truth in quest of liberation and discovers the Truth of the Supreme Lord through the authority of the scriptures, will he then, like a child, run after nonexistent chimera, knowing them to be the cause of his destruction? None would do so. Therefore he who discriminates must also renounce and cease to seek after externals which feed those lower tendencies that cause bondage. He should erase all sorrows due to ignorance by the experience “I am that Supreme Brahman alone, which is being-consciousness-bliss” and should abide ever in his true state, which is bliss. One who is in the waking state is not dreaming and one who is in the dream state is not awake; the two are mutually exclusive. Similarly, one who is not attached to the body has deliverance and one who is has not.
“A liberated being is one who sees himself as single and the Witness both within and without the world of things moving and unmoving, as the substratum of all. By his Universal consciousness experienced through the subtle mind, he has removed all the vehicles and he remains as the Absolute Whole. Only such a one is liberated, and he has no attachment to the body. There is no other means of liberation than this blessed realisation that “All is one Self”. And this “All is One” attitude is to be obtained by perpetual abidance in the Self and rejection of objects without attachment to them. How can a man reject objective reality if he has the “I am the body” idea and is attached to outer things and always performing actions dictated by them? It is impossible. Therefore renounce all actions based on karma and dharma and, with knowledge of the tattva, abide permanently in the Self. Prepare your mind for immersion in perpetual bliss. This effort will enable you to reject objective reality. It is in order to obtain this sarvatma bhava [attitude that all is the Self] that the scriptural text “Shanto dantha” [calm and self-controlled] prescribes Nirvikalpa samadhi [ecstatic trance] for those seekers who have taken a vow of Chandrayana [regulation of the increase and decrease of food intake through two successive fortnights] and have also performed sravana [hearing of the text “That thou art”]. A scholar who has not had a firm experience of Nirvikalpa samadhi, however learned he may be, will not be capable of destroying the ego and its objective reality together with all the accumulated tendencies of his previous births.
“It is the projecting power of maya together with its veiling power which unites the soul with the ego, the cause of delusion, and, through its qualities, keeps a man vainly dangling like a ghost. If the veiling power is destroyed the Self will shine of Itself, and there will be no room either for doubt or obstruction. Then the projecting power also will vanish, or even if it persists, its persistence will only be apparent. But the projecting power cannot disappear unless the veiling power does. Only when the subject is perfectly distinguished from objects, like milk from water, will the veiling power be destroyed.
“Pure discrimination born of perfect knowledge distinguishes the subject from the object and destroys the delusion due to ignorance. The man of discrimination distinguishes the Real from the unreal, reasoning as follows: “Like iron combining with fire, the intellect combines with ignorance to obtain a fictitious unity with the Self which is Being, and projects itself as the world of seer, sight, and seen. Therefore all these appearances are false, like a delusion, dream or imagination. All sense objects from the ego down to the body are also unreal, being modifications of prakriti, subject to change from moment to moment. Only the Self never changes. The Self, distinct from the body, distinct from being and non-being, the Witness of the intellect and the meaning implied by the “I”-sense, single, Eternal, indivisible, is indeed the Supreme Self of Eternal bliss incarnate.”
“In this way he discriminates between Truth and untruth and, in doing so, discovers the true Self. With the eye of illumination, he obtains actual realisation of the Self and experiences this “I” as the indivisible knowledge of absolute Brahman. Thereby he destroys the veiling power and the false knowledge and other sorrows that have been created by the projecting power, just as the fear of a snake falls away as soon as one perceives the reality of the rope [that one took to be a snake]. Being freed from these ills, he obtains abidance in a state of perfect peace. Thus, only when one obtains realisation of the supreme identity through Nirvikalpa samadhi will ignorance be destroyed without vestige and the knot of the Heart loosed. How can there be any seed of samsara still remaining in the liberated soul who has realised the Supreme identity with the utter destruction of the forest of ignorance by the fire of knowledge of oneness of Self and Brahman? He has no more samsara, no more rebirth and death. Therefore the discriminating soul must know the Atma tattva in order to be freed from the bondage of samsara.
“All forms of creation and imagination appearing as you, I, this, etc., are a result of the impurity of the intellect. They seem to exist in the absolute, attributeless Supreme Self, but in the state of absorption [samadhi] and experience of Brahman they cease to exist. Also the Self seems to be divisible owing to differences in the vehicles, but if these are removed it shines single and complete. Perpetual concentration is necessary in order to dissolve these differentiations in the Absolute. The wasp’s grub that renounces all activity and meditates constantly upon the wasp becomes a wasp, and in the same way the soul that longs for Brahman with one-pointed meditation becomes the Supreme Self through the power of its meditation and perpetual abidance in Brahman, in the absolute stillness. So persevere constantly in meditation on Brahman, and as a result the mind will be cleansed of the stain of the three gunas until it becomes perfectly pure and resumes its state, when it is ripe for dissolution in Brahman like salt in water. It is like gold being cleansed of its alloy and returning to the purity of its true state through being put in a furnace. Only in such purity of mind can Nirvikalpa samadhi be obtained, and therewith the essential bliss of identity. Through this samadhi all the knots of the vasanas are loosened and all past karmas destroyed so that the Light of the Self is experienced without effort, inwardly and outwardly, and at all places and times. Thus the subtle Brahman is experienced in the single and subtle mental mode of samadhi by those of subtle intellect, and in no other way, by no gross outlook, can it be experienced. Similarly the sage who has inner and outer senses controlled, in Solitude and equanimity, obtains experience of the all-pervading Self through perpetual concentration and thus, getting rid of all mental creations caused by the darkness of ignorance, becomes actionless and without attributes and remains eternally in the bliss of Brahman Himself. Only he is liberated from the bondage of samsara who, having obtained Nirvikalpa samadhi, perceives the mind, senses, and objects, the ears and sound, etc., to inhere in the Self, and not he who speaks only from theoretical wisdom. Brahman can be clearly experienced without any barrier only through Nirvikalpa samadhi, for apart from that the mental mode always fluctuates, leading from one thought to another. Therefore control the senses and mind and abide firmly in the Self. Utterly destroy the darkness of ignorance and its cause through experience of the one Self and abide ever as the Self. Reflection on Truth heard is a hundred times more potent than hearing It, and abiding in It is a hundred thousand times more potent than reflection on It. What limit, then, can there be to the potency obtained through Nirvikalpa samadhi?
“Restraint of speech, not accepting anything from others, conquest of desire, renunciation of action, continence, and solitude are all aids in the early stages of this Samadhi Yoga. Solitude helps to quieten the senses, and thereby the mind also. Stillness of mind destroys the tendencies and thereby gives perpetual experience of the essential bliss of Brahman. Therefore the yogi must always exert himself to restrain the mind. The breathing must subside into the mind, the mind into the intellect, the intellect into the Witness, and by knowing the Witness as the fullness of the unqualified Supreme Self perfect peace is obtained.
“He who meditates becomes that aspect of his being to which the consciousness is drawn; if to the body, he becomes body, if to the senses he becomes senses, if to the life-breath, he becomes that, if to the mind or intellect, he becomes mind or intellect. Therefore, rejecting all these, the consciousness should subside and obtain peace in Brahman, which is Eternal bliss.
“He who, through desire for liberation, has attained perfect freedom from desires is able to abide in the Self and get rid of all attachments, inner as well as outer, and he alone achieves inner and outer renunciation. Moreover, it is only he who is without desires, who has perfect non-attachment and so obtains samadhi and through samadhi the certainty that he has won to tattva jnana, which brings liberation. He who has attained liberation has attained Eternal bliss. Therefore complete nonattachment is the only path for him who aspires to the bliss of union with the bride of liberation. Non-attachment combined with Self-knowledge wins the kingdom of deliverance. Non-attachment and knowledge are like the wings of a bird needed for ascending the mount of deliverance, and if either of them is lacking it cannot be attained. Therefore renounce the desire for things, which is like poison; give up attachment to caste, group, social position, and destiny, cease to locate the “I”-sense in the body; be ever centred upon the Self; for in truth you are the Witness, the stainless Brahman.
“The Self in the form of Brahman, Witness of all finite beings, self-effulgent, shines eternally as “I-I” in the sheath of vijnana, distinct from the five sheaths. Being experienced as “I”, it shines as the true form of the Self, the direct experience of the great texts. Fix your Heart constantly on this Brahman, which is the goal. Let the senses remain in their centres, keep the body steady by remaining indifferent to it; and practise the meditation “I am Brahman, Brahman am I”, allowing no other thoughts to come in. Gradually still the mind by practice of the unbroken flow of beatitude. Realise the identity of Self and Brahman and drink the nectar of Brahman bliss in Eternal joy. What use are base thoughts of body and world, which are non-Self? Give up these non-Self thoughts, which are the cause of all sorrow. Hold firm to the Self, the seat of bliss, as “I” and no longer ascribe the “I”-sense to the ego and its attributes. Be absolutely indifferent to them and meditate perpetually on the Self, which is the cause of liberation.
“A pot, a huge earthen jar for storing grain, and a needle are all separate things, but when they are cast away there remains only the single expanse of ether. Something which is falsely imagined to exist on the substratum of something else has no reality apart from the real thing, just as a snake imagined in a piece of rope has not. Wave, foam, bubble, and whirlpool if examined are all found to be simply water. Pots of various sizes and shapes are nothing other than clay, and in fact are clay. Similarly, you should reject the limitations of body, senses, life-breath, mind, and ego, which are merely illusory. Only fools perceive and speak of “I”, “you”, “it” and so forth out of delusion and folly, being drunk with the wine of illusion [maya]. Even their perception of multiplicity is contained in being-consciousness-bliss, in the perfect purity of Self which, as Brahman, shines as one indivisible whole, like the vast ether. All superimpositions such as body and ego-sense, from Brahman down to a boulder, which are perceived as the world, are really nothing other than the one Self. They are merely the display of prakriti and the Self as pure Being. The one Supreme Self, unbroken and homogeneous, exists as east, west, south and north, inner and outer, up and down, everywhere. He himself is Brahma; He himself is Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, gods and men, and everything. What more is there to say? Everything from [the threefold appearance of] personal God, individual being, and world down to the minutest atom is merely a form of Brahman. In order to remove the superimposition of mithya [the false], the scriptures declare “There is no duality at all” [Brahman is one without a second]; therefore you yourself are the non-dual Brahman, spotless like the ether, without inner or outer, without attributes, changeless, timeless, without dimensions or parts. What else is there to know? The scriptures declare: “So long as the individual regards the corpse of his body as “I” he is impure and subject to various ills such as birth, death and sickness. Remove all objective reality superimposed on the Self by illusion and know yourself as pure, immutable Shiva; then you will become liberated, the Brahman which is without action and is indivisible Perfection.” The enlightened who have attained Supreme knowledge shine as being- consciousness-bliss, homogeneous Brahman, having utterly renounced objective reality. Therefore you too, reject your gross, impure body and the subtle body that wavers like the wind and the “I”-sense in them and regard yourself as being-consciousness-bliss, as declared by Vedanta, and thus remain forever as the very Brahman.
“The scriptures declare that: “Duality is of the nature of illusion [maya] and only non-duality is the Supreme Truth.” It is our experience that the diversity created by the consciousness ceases to exist in deep sleep in which the consciousness is absorbed in bliss. Those who are wise and discriminating know that the proverbial serpent has no existence apart from the substratum of the rope, nor the water of a mirage apart from the barren ground. It is our experience that when the mentality assumes the nature of the Self and becomes one with the attributeless Supreme Self, mental manifestation ceases. All these magical creations which the illusion of the mind sets forth as the universe are found to have no real existence and become untrue when the Truth behind them is realised as Brahman itself. In the non-dual Brahman the threefold reality of seer, sight, and seen does not exist. It is the substratum into which ignorance, the root cause of the illusion of multiplicity, is absorbed, like darkness into light. Like oceans that endure to the end of the cycle of time, the Truth of Brahman remains single, complete, absolute purity, inactive, unqualified, changeless, formless. Where, then, can be talk of duality or diversity in the homogeneity of Brahman? When in a state of samadhi, the enlightened jnani experiences in the Heart as “I-I” the homogeneous completeness of that Brahman which is Eternal, the bliss of knowledge incomparable, unattached, formless, inactive, unqualified, immutable, characterless, nameless, and free from bondage. It is still, like the ether – and yet nothing can be compared to it. It has no cause and is not an effect. It is beyond imagining. It is to be achieved only through realisation on the authority of the Vedanta. The Truth of It abides in the Heart and is experienced constantly as I. It is free from birth, old age, and death. In itself it is Eternal. It is Eternal, tranquil, and undifferentiated; it is vast and still like a calm ocean without a shore. In order not to fall back into samsara, practise Nirvikalpa samadhi by concentration on Brahman, which is experienced in the Heart as our own radiant Self, free from all limitations and as being-consciousness-bliss. This will destroy the individual consciousness which is the cause of all error, and thus you can unravel the knot of the Heart which causes the ills of birth and death. Thus will you obtain the glory of unbroken bliss, being Self-realised, and by doing so achieve the purpose of human life, a boon so rare to obtain.