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Vivekachudamani as translated by Sri Ramana Maharshi

It is indeed very difficult to obtain a human body. Even though one does, it is very difficult to become a brahmin. Even if one becomes one, it is still more difficult to walk in the path of vaidika dharma in which the Vedas are chanted. Still more difficult is it to become a perfect scholar, and more difficult again to undertake enquiry into the Self and the non-Self. Yet more difficult than all this is to obtain wisdom born of experience of the Self. Liberation in the form of abidance as the Self, born of that wisdom, is not to be attained except as a result of righteous actions performed throughout countless crores of births. However, even though all the above qualifications may not be obtained, liberation is assured through the Grace of the Lord if only three conditions are obtained: that is a human birth, intense desire for liberation, and association with sages.

If, by some great penance, that rarity, a human body is obtained, with its ability to understand the meaning of the scriptures, and yet, owing to attachment to insentient things, effort is not made to attain the Immutable state of liberation, which is one’s own true state, then indeed one is a fool committing suicide. What greater fool is there than one who does not seek his own good?

Liberation is not to be achieved through endless cycles of time by reading the scriptures or worshipping the gods or by anything else than knowledge of the unity of Brahman and Atman [Reality and Self]. Wealth or actions made possible by wealth cannot produce the yearning for liberation. Therefore the scriptures have rightly declared that action can never produce liberation. In order to obtain liberation one must heroically renounce even the very desire for the pleasures of this world. Then one must seek the perfect Guru who is the embodiment of peace and must concentrate one’s mind and meditate ceaselessly on That into which one is initiated. Such meditation leads to abidance in the wisdom of the experience obtained. Embarking in that ship of wisdom, one must ferry over to the shore of liberation, away from that self which is immersed in the ocean of samsara. Therefore the courageous aspirant should give up attachment to wife, sons and property and give up all activity. By so doing he should free himself from bondage to the cycle of birth and death and seek liberation. Actions are prescribed only for purification of the mind, not for realisation of the Self. Knowledge of the Truth of the Self is obtained only by Self-enquiry and not by any number of actions. One who mistakes a rope for a serpent is cast into fear thereby and his fear and distress can be removed only by the knowledge that it is a rope. A friend who knows this tells him so and he investigates and finds that it is so. There is no other way. Similarly, knowledge of Brahman is obtained through initiation by the Guru and enquiry into Truth. That Truth cannot be realized through purificatory baths, offerings, breath-control, or any other practice. He who seeks liberation through knowledge of the Self must enquire into the Self with the help of the perfect Guru who, being free from desires, is a knower of Brahman and an ocean of Grace. It is mainly through enquiry that he who is competent achieves knowledge of the Self; circumstance, time, and the Grace of the Lord are but aids to the quest.

In order to be qualified for enquiry into the Self, a man must have a powerful intellect and ability to seize the essential and reject the inessential besides the various qualities enumerated in the scriptures. What are these? He must be able to discriminate between the Real and the unreal. He must have an unattached mind. He must ardently desire liberation. And he must be tireless in practice. Only such a one is qualified to enquire into Brahman. The qualifications are enumerated as follows:

1. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal.

2. Disinclination to enjoy the fruits of one’s actions either in this or in any further life.

3. The six virtues of tranquility, self-control, withdrawal, forbearance, faith and concentration of the Self.

4. Intense yearning for liberation.

The aspirant must indeed have these qualities in order to attain abidance in the Self; without them there can be no realization of the Truth. Let us see what these are:

1. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal is the firm conviction that Brahman alone is the Truth and that the world is unreal.

2. We both observe and learn from the scriptures that all pleasures experienced by animate beings, from Brahma downwards, are transient and impermanent and involve sorrows and imperfections; giving up the desire for them is vairagya or non-attachment.

3.[a] Tranquility implies fixing the mind upon its target by meditating frequently on the imperfections of things and becoming dissatisfied with them.

[b] Self-control means controlling the outer and inner sense organs and fixing them in their respective centres.

[c] Withdrawal means giving up all outer activity by fixing the mind on its target so firmly that it is not led by its previous tendencies to dwell on objects.

[d] Forbearance means the endurance of any sorrows that may befall without trying to avoid them.

[e] Faith, which is the cause of Self-realization, is the outcome of firm conviction of the Truth of Vedantic scriptures and of the words of the Guru.

[f] Concentration is making every effort to fix the mind on the pure Brahman despite its wandering nature. These are said to be the six qualifications needed for the practice of samadhi [Self-absorption].

4. Intense yearning for liberation arises from the desire to free oneself by realizing one’s true nature, attaining freedom from the bondage of the body and ego which is caused by ignorance. This yearning may be of different grades. It may be only dull or medium, but it may be highly developed by means of the six qualifications mentioned above, and in this case it can bear fruit. But if renunciation and yearning are weak, the result may be mere appearance like a mirage in the desert.

Of all the means leading to liberation, bhakti or devotion is the best; and this bhakti means seeking the Truth of one’s own Self – so say the sages.

To read more of the Vivekachudamani click on this link:

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