THREE TYPES OF REALITY

THREE TYPES OF REALITY

There are three types of reality as explained in Vedanta sastra.  They are the pratibhasika satya, vyavaharika satya and paramarthika satya.  In our life, we exist in any one of these realities for the majority of the time.  Let us see each one of them with appropriate drishtantas (examples).

PRATIBHASIKA SATYA

Pratibhasika satya is otherwise known as individual reality or subjective reality.  Personal experiences of an individual like dreams, plans, imagination, thoughts, spiritual experiences, experiences from the sense organs etc are called the pratibhasika satya.  They may or may not be real for others.  In our jagrad avasta we mostly depend on the pratibhasika pramanas that is we mostly depend on our ideas, thoughts and sense organs.  Individual decisions are important in life; they may be right or wrong for others.  I may think and conclude on certain matters regardless of others feelings, emotions or facts.  Many people misinterpret certain values or facts in their own convenient way.  They may be right values expressed in the scriptures, but they interpret in their own way, mostly in a negative way.  Even though we live in this materialistic world, most of the time we live in our world of thoughts and imagination.  This is the root cause for worries and miseries; and this is called samsara.  We superimpose our world of thoughts on the existing world of matter and we live in a world of asatya (our dream world).  All these belong to the pratibhasika satya.

VYAVAKARIKA SATYA

Vyavakarika satya is otherwise known as objective reality or common reality.  It is the world of matter that we experience in our life.  It is the materialistic world.  It is otherwise said as Ishwara srishti (creation of God).  It is the common experience of the world.  This is the world of mitya and it loses its importance by knowledge.  The common experiences of all people is called the vyavakarika satya.  

PARAMARTIKA SATYA

Paramartika satya is the absolute reality or the complete reality.  That which is true (satya) for the three periods of time is the paramartika satya; and that satya is Brahman and Brahman alone.  Brahman cannot be realized by the sense organs.  It is not explicit.  One must do vichara (analysis) to realize the inner reality.  It is the cause that does not change to give the result and for that reason it is known as vivartha karana.  It is not removed by any pramana (instrument of knowledge).  It is the satya and it is omnipresent.  That eternal reality is the paramartika satya.

Now, an example can make us understand the three types of reality in a more clear way.

A man sees an object at a distance.  First it appears as gold in the bright sunlight.  Therefore, he thinks that it is a gold ball.  He went near it to take it.  When he neared it he realized that is a golden colour pot.  When he took it and had a closer look, he realized that it is a clay pot which is painted in golden colour.  In this example, his illusion that it is gold ball is the pratibhasika satya.  It is only his thought and not true.  When he realized that it is a golden colour pot, it is the vyavakarika satya.  When he realized in a subtle way that it is only a clay pot painted in golden colour, which implies that it is only clay, it is the paramarthika satya.  The clay existed even before becoming a pot; it will exist even after the pot breaks.  It is the base, it exists in the three periods of time, and so it is the paramartika satya.  

As said earlier, even though we live in the material world, world of matter and energy, for the majority of the time in the jagrad avasta (waking state) we live in the pratibhasika satya, the world of our thoughts and imagination.  In order to understand the truth of the material world, we have to come in terms with the vyavakarika satya.  Then to understand the reality we have to gradually shift to the paramartika satya. 

In the world of pratibhasika satya, mind will be mostly in a negative state or it will be ignorant of the reality.  To understand the paramartika satya, we have to clean up the mind and it is a two step process.  The first step is the karma yoga and the second step is the jnana yoga.  Karma yoga prepares the mind for knowledge and jnana yoga imparts knowledge. 

One must concentrate on the duty and must accept the result with contentment.  One must not justify failure or our weakness, by doing so may lead to future complications.  Failure must not be accepted in a personal manner and at the same time success must not boost a person’s ego.  Karma must be done for the sake of doing karma.  Practicing sadhana chatustaya will remove all the negative effects from the mind.  Bhakti (devotion) and self surrender to God are prime importance to attain jnana. 

When the mind is prepared for jnana, one must do shravana(listening) and manana on Vedanta sastras.  If the mind is not prepared to grasp the highest truth, shravana and manana will purify the mind automatically. 

Sastra explains that everything, jiva, jagad, Ishwara (God), liberation, has three states of reality.  Let us see each one of them separately and briefly. 

THREE STATES OF REALITY IN THE JIVA

When a jiva is in his world of imagination and when his thoughts are projected by ego then he is in the state of prathibhasika satya.  When the same jiva, discriminates himself from anatma and see himself as I, the Atma, which is separate from the world of experience (anatma) then he is said to be in the state of vyavakarika satya.  When the jiva realizes that he is the Atma and not the anatma, the world is only an illusion set by the mind, then he is said to be in the state of paramarthika satya.   

THREE STATES OF REALITY IN THE JAGAD(WORLD)

The world will remain the same.  However, we view the world in three different ways according to our knowledge. 

When we consider this world as the cause for our worries and miseries, then we have pratibhasika drishti on this world.  Drishti means view.  When we view this world as the play of maya and it is subject to change then we have vyavaharika drishti on this world.  When we have complete knowledge and do not give any reality to this world and view this world as asat then we have paramarthika drishti on this world. 

THREE STATES OF REALITY OF ISHWARA (GOD)

When we assume the Universal Consciousness as having a name and form, and consider that form as very personal, like Ishta devata or Kula devata, then it is the pratibhasika drishti on Ishwara.  Pratibhasika drishti leads to pratibhasika satya.  Pratibhasika drishti on Ishwara is the root cause for many religious fights all over the world.  People try to own the consciousness which is Universal.  People fail to understand the inner reality and fight over the external form.  It is complete misunderstanding of the reality.  When we have pratibhasika drishti on God, we pray to God and we have emotional attachment towards God.  We feel that He is the dispenser of our karmic result.

When we view the Universal Consciousness as the creator of this Universe and He is the Ishwara (God), the combination of Brahman and maya, then we have vyavakarika drishti on God, which leads to vyavakarika satya.  We understand that Ishwara (God) is the nimitta karana and upadhana karana of this world.

When we view Consciousness in its true sense, as absolute and infinite then we have paramartika drishti on the reality, which leads to paramartika satya.  When we realize that the Truth is not different from us and it cannot be explained by words, then we have paramartika drishti on Ishwara (God).

THREE TYPES OF REALITY OF LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

When we think that liberation or moksha is going to heaven and enjoying luxuries or going to pitru loka or Brahma loka then it is called the pratibhasika satya of liberation.

There are two types of liberation in Jiva.  One is jivan mukti and the other is vidheka mukti.  Jivan mukti is living in this material world and leading ordinary life with complete knowledge that “I am Brahman”, and they live with this knowledge till the prarabhdha karma gets exhausted.  Jiva is well aware of its true nature and after realizing he lives a detached life.  He remains as a silent witness. 

When the realized jiva leaves the body after the prarabhdha karma gets exhausted then it is called the vidheka mukti.  He has no rebirth.  By the power of his knowledge his sanchita karma as well as the agami karma is erased. Both jivan mukti as well as vidheka mukti comes under vyavakarika satya of liberation. 

Paramarthika satya of liberation is that the jiva attains nitya mukti.  He does not even feel that he once existed as a jiva with a body and mind.  He feels that he is Brahman alone.  It is the most advanced state of mukti and this is the paramartika satya of liberation (mukti). 

One must understand every state of reality in a proper way.  A common man usually exists in the pratibhasika satya.  He must move to the next level of reality that is to vyavakarika satya and then to paramartika satya.  By doing karma yoga one can elevate oneself from pratibhasika satya to vyavaharika satya.  By jnana yoga one can elevate oneself from vyavaharika satya to paramartika satya. 

These are the three types of reality as explained in the Vedanta sastras.

EPISTEMOLOGY

EPISTEMOLOGY – An analysis of knowledge

Epistemology is a branch of Philosophy where jnana (knowledge) is analysed.  It is also said as the science of jnana (knowledge). 

What is jnana?  Does one attain jnana instantly or is it a gradual process?

Jnana according to philosophy is the knowledge of the self (Atma), knowledge of the jagad (world), knowledge about Ishwara (God), the relationship between these three, and about bondage and liberation.  When we analyze jnana it is evident that one attains jnana gradually, in an organized manner.  If one attains jnana in an improper way then it will not help that person as well as the society. 

Now let us see the various aspects of jnana.  The different aspects are

1. Pramaatha – Knower

2. Pramaanam – Instrument of knowledge

3. Prameyam – Object of knowledge

4. Prama – Knowledge we attain

5. Brahma – Wrong knowledge

6. Prayojanam – Benefits of knowledge

These are the six aspects of jnana, which is otherwise known as jnana samagiri.  Now let us see each one of them briefly.

PRAMAATHA – Knower

Pramaatha is the person who has an inclination towards jnana.  If a person has an attitude for jnana then he will attain jnana; otherwise even when he is in a pool of jnana, he will not attain jnana.  No one can push a person into the field of Vedanta.  If a person chooses Vedanta without any other option then this knowledge will not stay with him for long.  Therefore, the mentality of the person who attains jnana is very important.  When a person with good interest and attitude aspire for jnana then he is known as the pramaatha.

A pramaatha must be aware of his ignorance.  He must be able to find his real interest and about the subject he wanted to know.  Others cannot help him much in this matter.  This is not an easy job because our ego will not allow us to reveal our ignorance.  All types of jnana like Vedanta, yoga, meditation, ritual etc, will not suit every person in the same way.  Therefore, the knower must be aware of which one will suit him the most; only then he will be able to continue in it.  This is known as prameya nischaya. 

He must decide from which institution or from which Guru he need to attain jnana; regardless of whether he is accepted by that institution or that Guru, he must know from where he would like to acquire jnana.  This is called pramaana nischaya. 

After deciding all these he must prepare himself to attain jnana.  For example, if he wants to attain knowledge in Vedanta, then he must practice chitta shudhi, purity of mind.  This is known as pramathru siddhi.

Sometimes we are aware of all these and we go through these processes consciously.  Sometimes everything falls in its own place due to our previous good deeds (puniya).  Dharma (right action) and shraddha (faith) protects a person even though he has low intellectual power.

PRAMAANAM – Instrument of jnana (knowledge)

It is not possible to attain jnana without a right pramaana.  There are six types of pramaana used in Philosophical studies. 

1. Pratyaksha pramaana – It is the jnana attained through the five sense organs like reading scriptures, directly seeing divine places or hearing Vedantic discourses etc.

2. Anumana pramaana – It is attaining jnana by reasoning, by using logic and coming to conclusion.  It is commonly known as yukti.  For example, if you see smoke at a distance then we conclude that there is fire. 

3. Arthapatti pramaana – It is attaining jnana by presumption.  It is moreover like anumana pramaana.  For example if we see a wet road, we presume that it has rained.

4. Upamana pramaana – It is the knowledge we attain by comparing one’s experience with others experience.

5. Sabda pramaana – It is the knowledge we attain through vakyam (sentences). 

Sabda pramaana has two divisions.  They are the lowkika sabda pramana and vaithika sabda pramana. 

Lowkika sabda pramaana is the knowledge we gain through books and through the experience of others. 

Vaithika sabda pramaana is the knowledge we attain from the Veda.  It is otherwise known as Veda sabda pramana. 

6. Anupalapti pramaana – It is the knowledge of non-existence.  It is about knowing the absence of an object or matter. 

3. PRAMEYAM – Object of knowledge

Prameyam has three categories.  They are the jagad jnana, dharma jnana, and Brahma jnana. 

Jagad jnana is the jnana about the five basic elements, its corresponding subtle tattwa and their different combinations.  All the branches of science, arts, engineering, medicine etc comes under this category. 

Dharma jnana – it is the jnana about the righteous acts, its consequences.  It also tells about the actions to be avoided and the consequences of it if they are not avoided.  The basic principle of this jnana is what is right for my mind and emotions is right for others.

Brahma jnana – it is the knowledge of the Self attained through the scriptures.  It is the subjective knowledge and not subject to change.  One must be sharp enough to grasp the illusive nature of this world. 

4. PRAMA – Jnana (knowledge)

When a pramaata (knower, student), using pramaana (instrument of knowledge, senses), when he touches the prameya (object of knowledge), the thought that arises in the mind is prama (knowledge).  Prama shows the exact nature of the object/subject.  We often refine our action in a positive way according to our jnana.  If we superimpose our ideas or if we understand it according to our will, then it is the viparita jnana (wrong jnana). 

Sattvika jnana helps one to see the unity in diversity.  Rajasika jnana makes one to see this world as different parts.  It clearly differentiates between objects.  Tamasika jnana makes one to see the part as the whole.  It does not give a clear picture of the world.  Arrogance and ignorance hides the real world.  Sattva guna leads to faith in sattvic life and this gives sattvic jnana.

5. BRAHMA – Wrong understanding

Brahma is wrong jnana.  It is also said as viparita jnana.  When we see an object we superimpose our own idea on it and we do not see the object as such; as a result we get a distorted image of the object.  In sanskrit, this is known as adhyasam, meaning (superimposition).  For example, when we see a rope, we superimpose a snake on the rope.  It is to assume something in the place where it is not present.  The same instrument of knowledge which gives the right jnana is also responsible for the wrong jnana.  If the jnana is wrong then it is very difficult to understand that we have acquired wrong jnana; moreover, if we acquire wrong jnana then it is difficult to remove it.  Right knowledge is to know exactly the object as it is.  Right knowledge shows the presence and absence of an object just like a light illumining the object.  Sometimes our sense organs may give wrong knowledge.  What we see may not be the reality.  In such places one must use anumana pramaana (reasoning) to get right knowledge.  There is a famous saying, ‘You will never know what it is.  You would like to know what you want to’.  Impurities in the mind give a distorted image of the real.  When we gain chitta shuddi, only right knowledge will enter the mind. 

Sometimes we may have jnana.  However, we fail to implement it and that jnana is very weak.  Therefore, it is important to attain jnana through proper source and it must be used to implement the right values in life.   

6. PRAYOJANAM – Benefits of jnana

There are two types of jnana.  They are karma sadhanam and jnana sadhanam.

Karma sadhanam :  Even after attaining jnana one must practice it to get benefit from it.  For example, even after knowing about yoga asanas, one must practice it to get full benefit from yoga.  This is known as karma sadhanam.

Jnana sadhanam  :   Jnana itself will give immediate benefit.  For example, when the mind does not have any impurities, then the mahavakyas itself will give immediate jnana.  Jnana sadhanam is only applicable to Brahma jnana.  All the other worldly jnana needs practice and they belong to karma sadhanam.

These are the different aspects of jnana.  All our actions, judgment, emotions, behaviour are based on our jnana.  Therefore, it is important to attain jnana from the right source.

DESTINY VERSUS FREEWILL

DESTINY VERSUS FREEWILL

Destiny vs freewill – It is one of the very famous and important topics as far as spirituality is concerned.  Everyone would be interested to know that who is in-charge of our life?  Is it God, or the planets and stars, or our past karmas or is it our strong desires which we famously say as freewill or the surroundings in which we develop our talents like our family, society etc.  Who decides our life?  For some people everything happens in the easiest way, some have to struggle a lot; more worse is, some people in spite of the effort they take success slips from their hands.  For some people failure and hard times haunt them for many years to the extent that they get used to hard times and feel no difference.  Is there any basic reason for all these or is it just a happening. 

In this article, I am not going to mention about the different beliefs based on different religions.  I would like to share the rational thought behind this topic.

 Destiny in Sanskrit is said as prarabhdha karmas.  When we perform an action, subtle impressions are formed in the mind.  These impressions are called vasanas.  Vasanas influence our thought process and accordingly an action is done.  When an action is done, again a new impression is formed in the mind and this cycle repeats.  If life is strictly based on our prarabhdha karmas, then present actions are based on prarabhdha karmas, there is no chance for any external influence and life is predetermined.  Life will be according to the past impressions.  It is like the read only CD; in that case, there is no need to praise or to punish people because everything is predetermined and just bear what all comes in life; but life does not go that way.

On the contrary, if life is strictly based on strong desires in the mind which we say as freewill, then how come people face negatives in life?  Definitely, no one will have desires for negative situations or results.  From both the views it is easy to understand that life is not completely based on either freewill or prarabhdha karma. 

The thought based on a situation affects the person more than the situation itself.  Let us take the example of failure in exams.  All students will not take that incident in the same way.  Some students consider this situation as a part of life.  Some take it very seriously; they analyze the reason for failure and improve their performance in their next exam.  Some students go to the extent of committing suicide and some just conclude themselves as inefficient and discontinue from the studies.  These are some of the reaction from different mentalities based on a single situation.  The people who argue for destiny say that the result as well as their reaction are based on the past impressions.  The people who argue for freewill say that everything is based on our upbringing, influence from family, friends, society etc.  What is the base for all these; is it destiny (prarabhdha karma) or freewill (purushartha). 

Vedanta says that life is based on both – destiny as well as freewill.  Either destiny or freewill alone cannot make life.  Our present action, present thoughts, present effort will never go waste.  Influence of prarabhdha karma can create situations.  However, how efficiently we face that situation is based on the power of the present thoughts.  Prarabhdha karma influences our thoughts to a large extent.  However, if we are aware and confident then we can create powerful present thoughts and change our destiny.  Our present thoughts, action and knowledge definitely have a power to influence the destiny.  Either way can happen; If our destiny is positive then there is a chance of changing it to negative – though it is very rare; A negative destiny can also be changed to positive to an extent by the powerful positive thoughts.  Exercises of the mind like meditation, affirmations, visualization etc can help change the destiny the positive way. 

Some of the prarabhdha karmas are very strong or they have already started to give result.  They are like the released arrow.  They will definitely hit the target.  Some of them like, our birth in a family, our parents, siblings, and physical deformities are the result of the released prarabhdha karmas.  They cannot be changed.  However, our future is not fixed.  Only the present moment is true.  Future is based on our decisions taken at the present moment.  If we are not aware that our present thoughts have power, then we will not try for it and in that case by default life goes according to prarabhdha karma, which is destiny. 

As said earlier, some of the prarabhdha karmas are powerful and need more effort to change.  Suppose I want to change the color of my room wall to white colour which is now painted in black colour, then I have to take much effort to change it to white.  If the wall is already painted yellow in colour, then I do not need much effort to change it to white.  Just the same way, sometimes our karmas are strong.  Then we have to take a lot of effort to change it to positive.  It may take some time to change.  However, definitely gradually it will change.  If the karmas are not that strong then with little effort we can change the destiny to positive.   

Sometimes, our prarabhdha karma and freewill go in the same way.  Then the future will be very bright.  Sometimes the prarabhdha karma and freewill are just opposite.  Then it needs effort and it is time consuming.  Anyway if our present thoughts are powerful and positive then the negative destiny can be changed gradually to positive.  What has happened till today is according to the prarabhdha karmas.  That cannot be changed.  Now we are aware of the power of our thoughts and the future is materialized by the power of our present thoughts.  Definitely the present thoughts has a power over the past impressions or destiny.

Another important point is, we must have complete focus on our goal.  Many people have scattered desires or rather many desires.  They are not sure about their goal.  In such cases only the resultant of the desires will materialize. 

There are many past vasanas in the mind.  It is measured in quantity.  Whereas, the power of the present thoughts is based on the quality of the present thought.  It is quantity versus quality.

Therefore in conclusion, whichever is powerful will materialize.  If the prarabhdha karmas (destiny) are powerful then by default it will become our future.  On the contrary, if the present positive thoughts (purushartha or freewill) are powerful, then the future is based on the present positive thoughts.  Life is a combination of both destiny and freewill.

THE PROCESS OF KNOWING

THE PROCESS OF KNOWING

The process of knowing Brahman is an easy and natural process but made complicated by misunderstanding.  “Is it possible to realize “I am Brahman” by mind?”  Mind has a unique quality.  It can reflect the pure Consciousness – the Atma.  The reflected Consciousness is called chidabasa.  For example, in a dark room, open a small window and let the sunlight fall on a surface of the mirror.  One can see a small image of the sun on the mirror.  A beam of light is emitted from the surface of the mirror.  This reflected light illumines the dark room and it illumines the mirror also.  When you move the mirror, the reflected light also moves and illumines the respected area.  Now compare this example with the Vedanta concept of Consciousness.  Sun is compared with the pure Consciousness – Brahman.  Mirror is compared with the mind, the reflected image of the sun is compared with the reflected Consciousness – cidabasa.  Just like the reflected image illumines the dark room, the reflection of the pure Consciousness, cidabasa illumines the mind.  Whenever we concentrate on a subject, then the reflected consciousness illumines the thoughts connected with that subject.  The consciousness behind all our actions is the cidabasa.  It is not the pure consciouness – Brahman;  It the reflection of the pure Consciousness, cidabasa. 

When you see an object, the image of the object falls on the mind.    This creates a mental wave in the mind.  The mental wave is nothing but the modification of the mind.  The mental wave in the mind is called a vritti.  It is also said as mental ripple.  Whatever information we gather through the sense organs, our thoughts, our words, everything creates vrittis in the mind.  The vritti is about the object or matter on which we focus the mind.  Whenever a vritti arises in the mind it is illumined by cidabasa.  By this process we attain knowledge and we store it in the form of impressions as memory.  If the cidabasa does not illumine the vritti then we are not aware of the vritti itself.  Therefore, knowledge happens in two steps.  The first step is, vritti is created in the mind.  Second, that vritti is illumined by the cidabasa.  All these happen in a fraction of a second.  In Vedantic term, the arising of the vritti is called vritti vyapti.  Illumination of the vritti by the cidabasa is called phala vyapti.  Therefore to attain knowledge we need vritti vyapti and phala vyapti.

In dream also the same thing happens.  The dream vrittis arise in the mind and immediately they are illumined by cidabasa and we are aware of the dreams.  In deep sleep the mind shuts down and there are no vrittis and no knowledge.  In deep sleep, illumination of the absence of the vrittis takes,+ place.  This is how the normal process of knowing takes place. 

Now what happens in Brahma jnana is, we change the focus of the mind towards Brahman – Pure Consciousness.  We receive Brahma jnana from scriptures and teachers.  Vritti about Brahman itself is created in the mind.  These vrittis are called Brahmakara vritti.  In the beginning stages, a student will have Bramakara vritti along with the vishaya vritti (thoughts about objects).  The mind is not pure, and cidabasa illumines the mind.  In the final stages of Brahma jnana the mind becomes pure and it is devoid of other vrittis regarding the worldly objects.  Cidabasa is less powerful to illumine the pure Brahmakara vritti.  Therefore, cidabasa is not needed to illumine the Brahmakara vritti.  It is just like using torch light to see the sun in the broad day light.  Brahmakara vrittis are directly illumined by Brahman or Atma.  In the initial stages of Brahma jnana, vritti vyapti and phala vyapti takes place.  In the final stages of Brahma jnana only vritti vyapti takes place and phala vyapti is ignored; because vrittis are directly illumined by Brahman.  This is the point where cidabasa (reflected Consciousness) loses its identity and merges with Brahman.  There is no more individual identity for the cidabasa as well as for the mind. 

Therefore, vrittis are in the mind.  Even the mahavakya “I am Brahman” is a vritti; till the cidabasa and the mind loses their identity, Brahman is known by the mind.  This is the view of the Vedanta philosophy.  Vedanta philosophy uses knowledge as a path to know Brahman. 

SADHANA AND SADHYAM

SADHANA (SPIRITUAL PRACTICES) AND SADHYAM (GOAL)

Sadhana are the various spiritual practices and sadhyam is the goal.  There are many sadhanas for a single goal.  ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ meaning ‘You are Brahman’ –  these are the strong words of the Upanishads.  However, in my real life I am not able to realize this profound concept.  Whether I realize it or not, aware of it or not, accept it or reject it, this is the reality and it does not change.  It is true for the three times – the past, present and the future.  I do not need to go to any particular place or do any particular practice to become Brahman.  I am already Brahman.  Even though, I am Brahman I am not able to realize it or identify with Brahman.  At present, I identify with my body, mind and ego.  When I identify with my body I am aware of my physical features like I am tall, fat, lean, my complexion, my nationality, my family, relatives etc.  When I identify with my mind then I am aware of my emotions like I am sad, I am happy, I am angry etc.  When I identify with my intellect then I aware of my educational qualification, my status, my position, what I know, what I do not know etc.  Always I am identifying with any one of these during the waking state.  My real identity as Brahman does not seem to be real at present.  When the Upanishads say something, there is no contradiction in it.  However, in life I do not feel that ‘I am Brahman’.  Why is this discrepancy?  The main reason for this discrepancy is ignorance. 

Ignorance hides our real nature.  The whole process of Advaita philosophy and various other spiritual practices are to remove this ignorance and make a person aware of his true nature.  We always identify with our body, mind and ego.  They are all transient.  All the spiritual practices are to make one realize that he is Brahman.  There is a subtle point here.  Many people think that the spiritual practices are to make one Brahman or to become Brahman.  Some people think that the spiritual sadhanas like mediation, poojas, and various other rituals are the ultimate goal itself.  The fact is we are already Brahman.  However, we do not realize it.  The spiritual practices remove ignorance and make one realize that he is Brahman.  Brahman alone exists. 

When the problem is ignorance, the solution is knowledge.  To dispel ignorance one need to know about the ignorance itself.  The next question is, ‘What am I ignorant off’?  I am ignorant of the fact that I am unlimited and infinite.  In what way does this ignorance affect my life?  Due to this ignorance, I always feel non-content and I need something external to make me complete.  Thus, desire arises in the mind.  I perform actions to satisfy my desires.  Once I perform an action and wait for the result, then I am caught in the network of karma phala and the cycle goes on and on.  The result is delusion and misery. 

In the traditional way, Advaita philosophy dispels ignorance in three steps.  They are shravana, manana and nididhyasana.  Knowledge comes from reading and listening to scriptures.  Listening is a very important practice in which all the other practices culminate.  Shravana is reading and listening to scriptures, manana is reasoning and thinking about the received knowledge and nididhyasana is assimilating or meditating on the received knowledge.  Advaita philosophy is based on the pure knowledge.  It is the intellectual way of understanding the reality.  One has to repeat nididhyasana until the knowledge dissolves in the person.  Till then it is only a bookish knowledge.  It is not easy for the mind to grasp the truth.  One has to own this knowledge by assimilating this knowledge. 

When we do shravana and manana the knowledge is well established in the intellect.  Intellect is in the vinjanamaya kosa.  This knowledge must be practiced by the mind in the manomaya kosa, only then it gives real transformation in a person.  Due to the viparitha bhavanas in the mind this knowledge easily slips from the mind.  Therefore, this knowledge must be well established in the mind.  Repeated practice of nididhyasana will establish this knowledge in the mind.  When we do various practices from the other yogas like karma yog, bhakti yog and meditation etc it gives chitta shuddhi (purity of mind) and chitta ekagrata (concentration of mind).  When the mind is pure and focused, it helps the mind to grasp the higher truth.  Because of the impurities, the mind finds difficult to do any spiritual practice.  The solution to chitta malam(impurities of the mind) is chitta shuddhi, which is mainly attained by karma yog and bhakti yog.  Chitta ekagrata is attained by meditation.  By doing meditation the scattered mind becomes focused and it helps shravana and manana.  If the problem is scattering of mind then the solution is meditation.  Meditation gives ekagrata (concentration power).  Meditation and other spiritual practice will not give knowledge.  They make the mind fit to grasp the ultimate truth.  Only the sruti pramanas give pure knowledge.  Chitta shuddhi and chitta ekagrata helps to gain jnana (knowledge).  Jnana (knowledge) helps to realize Brahman, our true identity. 

Therefore the various spiritual practices like bhakti, karma yog, meditation, upasana, sharavana, manana, nididhyasana  are all various sadhanas.  The goal (sadhyam) is realization of the reality.  The reality is ‘I am Brahman’.  Various spiritual sadhanas help realization.  Chitta shuddhi (purity of mind ) and chitta ekagrata (concentration of the mind) also helps realization.  The fact or reality is we are already Brahman.  We do not want to become Brahman.  Aham Brahma asmi.