Consciousness is an ancient topic. It is the topic of the Rishis. However, recently the world is interested in this topic, because the world wants to overcome miseries and worries and it is paving the path through Consciousness. Different philosophies have different ideas about Consciousness and different people have different ideas about Consciousness. In my view, from the ancient times only Advaita Vedanta has a clear view about Consciousness. Other philosophies search for Consciousness. One cannot search for Consciousness because it is our existence itself. Consciousness is not different from us. It is our existence itself and we cannot deny it. If we deny it then it means we are negating our own existence.
Different paths like bhakti yog, karma yog etc can erase the unwanted residues in our mind and make the mind pure so that it is easy for a person to realize Reality. If Consciousness is different from us like the body or brain then we can observe it; but Consciousness is our existence and we can only exist in it. Existing in that state we can observe different objects. Consciousness is the fundamental reality of this Universe. One cannot further reduce it or break it like matter.
Consciousness interacts with the world through the body and mind. Consciousness closely attaches with the body and mind and at that time it takes a form and it has emotions according to the impressions in the mind. Consciousness which is non dual, when it passes through different set of impressions it appears like different individuals. By practicing any yog if we separate the mind from the Consciousness, then we can realize our self as Consciousness. Now we imagine ourselves to be the body and mind complex. If we practice to distance the mind from us then we will realize our existence as pure, powerful and Universal Consciousness.
If I say Consciousness is our existence, then we impose different colours for the Consciousness; it is because we know ourselves as always existing in different states of emotions. Different states of emotions are the product of the mind. They are the result of our past karmas. The mind and the karmic impressions in it are inert. Mind becomes active only when it is closely attached with the Consciousness. If the Consciousness attaches with the mind, which is our current state, then we experience the whole world. If Consciousness separates from the mind then there will be no external or internal experiences except the experience of the existence itself. It is a state beyond description.
According to Advaita Vedanta, this state can be experienced by intellectual understanding and contemplation, which in vedantic terms known as Shravana ( hearing), Manana (reasoning) and nidithyasana (deep contemplation).
Experiencing the mind is our false identity. However, it is absolutely needed for the transactional world. Existence, Pure Consciousness or Brahman is our true identity. Pure Consciousness has no emotions, feelings, karmas or any God. It does not see any difference in anything in this Universe. That is why in nirvana shatakam, Sri Adi Sankaracharya said, ‘I am not the buddhi or mind or ego or prana or body. I have no desires, nor need dharma, artha or even Moksha (liberation). I am not attached to sins or virtues. I need no mantra, guru or sastra. I do not have parents, I do not fear death because I am not born in a womb, I am eternal. I am eternal, all pervading, I do not need liberation because I am already liberated – Shivoham, shivoham, shivoham’.
Consciousness is our true identity. We are that pure universal existence bounded by a mind and body. We operate with a false identity with a form and name and we have decided our duties by doing different karmas. However in reality we are Brahman, Pure Consciousness. The teaching of Advaita Vedanta is to make one realize this true state.
In my last article, I wrote that the definition of God depends on the mind that defines it. The definition changes with the attainment of knowledge. The gunas (nature) and attributes coin the name for that divine form.
In this article, I would like to share with you the definition of God according to Advaita Vedanta. The primitive form of bhakti makes us to believe that God is a person in the heaven, who is the dispenser of our karmic results, and he will be pleased if we worship him and punish us if we disobey him. Well, this type of bhakti will help our mind to get purified; however, our knowledge of the divine principle must mature beyond this initial stage.
Advaita Vedanta is a very sophisticated philosophy. According to Advaita Vedanta the name given for that universal, infinite divine principle is Brahman. Let me take the support of the Taittriya Upanishad, second chapter (Brahmananda valli) first para to explain this concept. It says, “The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman itself. He who realizes Brahman attains the supreme”. In the same verse it says, “Satyam, jnanam, anantham Brahman”, meaning Brahman is existence, knowledge and bliss. Brahman means vast, infinite, unlimited. Here vast, infinite, unlimited are not used as adjectives. It is Brahman itself. Vastness means without any limit. Brahman has no limit that is why it is said as infinite and unlimited. In sanskrit it said as anantha.
First we will analyze that how Brahman is said as anantha. In the worldly life (samsara), any object is limited by three factors. It is limited by space (desa), time (kala), object (vastu). For example, take this computer in which I am typing this article. It is limited by space, time and object. This computer occupies a certain space; in that way it is limited by space. Whereas, Brahman is all pervading. It has no limits. There is no place without Brahman.
This computer has a manufacturing date and an expiring date. It works well only during that period of time. After that period, it automatically gets destroyed. It exists between creation and destruction. In that sense it is limited by time. Whereas, Brahman is eternal, omnipresent; it always exists. It existed before this creation and it will always exist. The universe emerged from Brahman, it is existing in Brahman, after dissolution only Brahman will exist.
This computer has a form and a name. No other object is known by this name; in that sense it is limited by object. Any object is known by itself and not by any other object. The name gives an identity for this form; whereas, Brahman pervades all forms. Nothing in this universe is apart from Brahman. Therefore, Brahman is not limited by object (vastu).
Therefore, Brahman is not limited by space, time and object and hence it is said as ananda, infinite and non-dual. There cannot be two infinites and hence Brahman is non -dual. Brahman is sarva vyapi (all pervading), nitya (eternal) and ananda (infinite).
Next, we will analyse that how Brahman is said as satyam (Reality). Brahamn is existence itself. Every object exists in the existence and no object exists apart from existence. If I deny this existence, then it implies that I do not exist. It is one continuous base of existence where there is no part or division. Therefore Brahman is satya; Reality itself.
Next, we will analyze that how Brahman is said as jnana (knowledge). Any object in this world is limited by space (desa), time (kala) and object (vastu), which means that the knowledge about that object, is also limited. Every object exists in Brahman. Without intelligence we cannot have knowledge about an object. That intelligence, which is pure consciousness, is Brahman itself. If we realize Brahman then all the objects are known. Therefore, knowledge is Brahman.
Brahman is pure consciousness, devoid of the mind. We come across this state many times in a day like the gap between two thoughts, when our mind goes to an exalted state or in deep misery etc, for a moment we come across this state; but it goes unnoticed.
Pure Consciousness is underlying in all the experiences in life. Only thing is we have to own this fact. Brahman is satyam, janana, ananda. It is existence itself. We are existing in that existence.
Who is God?
Is He the divine person up in the heaven and dispenser of our karmic results
Or Is He the person in his divine abode who favors us when we offer him and punish us when we do not offer him
Or Is He the deity we worship in the temples
Or Is He different from us
Or Are we existing in Him
Or is He existing in us;
Who is God in reality?
It might be a difficult question to answer; because all these ideas come and cloud our mind when we think about God and every point I quoted is true; only thing is they are the different levels of realization. Definition of God depends on the mind that defines it.
Every religion begins with faith. We believe that God is a person like us and has similar emotions and form like us. It is true but our understanding must go beyond the elementary level of understanding God. Worshipping God as a different person with divine form and interacting with God in that level is not the goal of life. We must improve our understanding and must realize God as the universal Consciousness. There is no grain in this universe without God. He is present in every form and in the transcendental level.
Any form worship, chanting mantras, devotion, yoga, saguna meditation will help us purify the mind and prepare the mind for the next level of realization. It is not the ultimate. God must be realized as the truth in our self and in everything else. He is the underlying Consciousness of all our experiences. It is by His presence that we are able to see, hear, touch, speak, remember etc. All our activities either good or bad are based on Him. We act according to our karmic tendencies however all our acts are possible because of that underlying Consciousness. What we say as God is the pure undivided Consciousness and it is showing its presence through our actions. Just like electricity is present throughout the wire but we are able to realize its presence when we switch on the light. Consciousness or in Vedantic terms Brahman is present everywhere, but we realize its presence through our actions.
The same point is emphasized in Kenopanishad in many ways. It says that Brahman is different from the known and it is beyond the unknown. The ultimate is beyond the known and unknown. Upanishad says that worshipping God as another object or as deity means we are objectifying the universal Consciousness. The presence of God is realized by the people who are either very devotional or people who lead ascetic life. The concept of temples and deities came in to being just to make the layman feel the presence of God. However, what turned out in the end is people started to believe that what they worship in temples as deities alone is God and they are unable to feel His universal presence.
Upanishads differentiates the universal Consciousness that has form and attributes as saguna Brahman and its formless and attributeless nature as nirguna Brahman. The pinnacle of every religion is the realization of God as the universal principle. This is very clearly explained in the Kenopanisad chapter 1, verses 5,6,7,8,9. Kenopanisad says, “Man cannot describe it beyond a certain limit. Man cannot think about it, speak about it, see it, hear it, touch it or perceive it; but That by which a man thinks, speaks, sees, hears, touches, perceives etc, know that to be Brahman and not what people worship as an object” Brahman is not an object to see it as separate from us or to search for it. It is the Consciousness by which we perform all activities. Every experience happens in life because of Brahman. Upanishad is not against any form worship or rituals; however it says that it is not the ultimate.
ADVICE AND DECISION MAKING
Decision making is an important art. Each moment is based on our decisions. If we fail to take an apt decision at the correct moment, then opportunities will elude us. It is best to take decisions of our own. Sometimes we may not be able to decide of our own due to dilemma, we may not be well aware of the situations and circumstances, or sometimes we may even feel that someone else is more knowledgeable than us. Whatever may be the reason, we must approach the correct person for advice else their ignorance and confused state of mind will deter us more.
When someone asks us advice, we have to remember that we are directing them to take an important decision. Having this point in mind we have to advice them in the most sensible and responsible way. There is nothing wrong when we do not advice anyone, but when we advice someone, it matters a lot. Some people advice in the way that is profitable to them. This is cowardice and it has to be avoided. Our ideas may be favorable to us, but we must see whether it will favor others the same way. When we advice someone, our ideas are very important for that person, at that point of time to take a decision. We mostly advice others based on our experience. Our experience is based on our karmas, our capacity to deal with a situation, our talent, our determination and willpower. These five factors differ with each and every individual. We always advice others based on our personality in mind. These advices may or may not be apt for their way of living. Before we advice someone, all these factors have to be considered.
In my view, we must not compel anyone by the name of advice. The five factors like karma, capacity, talent, determination and willpower in others will definitely be above or below our own limit. No other person will have these five factors exactly the same as ours. If our ideas do not tally with their mentality, then they will be in more confusion and delusion. To avoid this, we can tell them about the probable solutions and consequences and allow them to take decision of their own. We must help and support others to take their own decisions. When we give them an idea, it will be helpful for them to decide of their own. Our words and ideas must enable others to be aware of their positive qualities and capabilities. Such words will create a positive vibration and self confidence in others and this will enable them to take their own decisions.
Decision making is very important in one’s life. This art must be trained from childhood. A child must be trained to take decisions independently and aptly according to the situation. Parents and teachers instead of spoon feeding their own ideas, they must help the child to take decisions independently and aptly. Even though it is our child, these five factors will definitely differ in the child. It is our ignorance to force our ideas on them.
When someone ignores our advice, there is no need to panic or feel bad about it, because the five crucial factors may have made them to decide in their own way. At the same time never advice a person who always ignores our advice, because our words and ideas are wasted on something which is always ignored.
Advice is not an easy thing to do. It is the most responsible and prominent thing because others future is dependent on our ideas. Our words must not at any time lower the confidence level of others. Confidence is something which is hard earned by our experience, hard work and success. A person survives in difficult times with their hope and confidence. If our words disturb their confidence and hope, then it is same as killing them in the most brutal way. If our words and ideas help others come out of their entanglements in life, then it is the most virtuous thing a person can experience in his life.
Mind is the center of all the happenings and disturbances in the life. If the mind and senses are controlled then liberation can be achieved easily. A person cannot have self realization by Vedic rites, uttering mantras, reading scriptures or by any other means. Only when a person realizes that his true nature is not different from Brahman, he is a self realized person. There are many paths which lead a man to self realization. Meditation is one among them. The five senses and the mind always becomes an obstacle for all persons to reach the goal of self realization. Mind uses the five senses to gather information from the external world. When the five senses are shut, mind becomes totally detached from the external world. When the mind understands about the senses, the mind will not be deluded and it will have the power to overcome the senses. Senses represent the different aspects of the mind. Senses do not exist independent of the mind. The more the intellect the more it disturbs the mind. All the individuals have the power to attain self realization, but many do not use it. Self realization is the state of abiding in intelligence. According to Vedanta philosophy, when an individual soul merges with Nirguna Brahman( Brahman without attributes), he is beyond thought and mind; when he is Saguna Brahnman ( Brahman with attributes), he has mind and he thinks. When the mind realizes that it rests in infinity then no obstacle can disturb it.
When the senses are directed outwards, worldly pleasure affects the human beings. Mind which is not dependent on the senses is a stable mind. Nature is a great classroom from which we can learn many lessons to lead a perfect life. It was Sage Dattatreya, who explained this concept to the world by himself mentally accepting twenty four gurus from nature. Sage Dattatreya was a well renowned and an erudite sage of ancient India. In Srimad Baghavad, he explains about the lessons he derived from the way of life of the twenty four beings from nature that he consider as his Guru. These lessons helped the Sage to evolve as a perfect person and chisel his life as a blazing spiritual power. He learnt many lessons to do and not to do from the characteristic traits of the twenty four Gurus. Sage Dattatreya had a stable unwavering mind which is not common among the worldly people. When we care too much for the senses, our knowledge will be destroyed, the mind and speech will fritter away. Sage Dattatreya’s twenty four gurus are the earth, air, sky, water, fire, sun, moon, pigeon, python, ocean, moth, elephant, honey-bee, honey gatherer, deer, fish, pingala the courtesan, child, osprey, maiden, arrow-smith, spider, snake, wasp.
1. Forbearance is one of the fine quality which is missing in people today. Forbearance should come with responsibility. When we lack the quality of forbearance, we are not qualified to occupy a responsible position. Sometimes others life may overlap or affect our own life. A man of steady intellect will not waver from his own path. A person of controlled mind does not get disturbed by the external disturbances. The sage learnt the lesson of forbearance from the earth, which accepts everything with patience and forbearance. He also learnt the art of being useful to others from the nature of the tree.
2. A person with steady intellect should not be carried away by the influences of the other people. He must be detached from the external influences. Then only he will be able to take decisions in the most dharmic way. This is the lesson the Sage learnt from air, which remains unaffected by the good and bad odour of things over which it blows. The air is always pure. A person has to move amid people of diverse characters, but his mind must be absolutely free from their virtues and short comings.
3. Time brings a lot of change in man and his surroundings. Just like the sky which is not disturbed by the rain, thunder, storm or even by the explosion of the galaxies, a stable man should not be affected by the incidents in his life. This lesson the Sage learnt from the sky.
4. A person of pure intellect exercises a sanctifying influence on others. Their pure and serene nature helps us to purify ourselves. When we approach some people we feel comfortable and relaxed. This is the lesson the Sage learnt from the water, which purifies any kind of impurity.
5. A man of self control is not polluted at any time or under any circumstances. He remains unpolluted like the all consuming fire which is not polluted by the material it consumes. This is the lesson the Sage derived from the fire.
6. The waning and the waxing of the moon taught the Sage that nothing in this world is permanent. The good and bad times fade away like the digits of the moon. In spite of the creation and destruction, only Atma remains permanent. The Atma takes the body, keep it for some time, then sheds it, then again takes a new body and so on. Everything is a passing phase.
7. The lesson taught by the sun is that, the sun illumines millions of objects. Just like that, a person of controlled mind can illumine and show the path for many people. Many people will be benefited by a single person of pure intellect.
8. Another wonderful lesson the Sage learnt is from the pigeon. The Sage learnt about the negative side of the undying affection and attachment. He explains it with a story. Once there lived a pigeon which had undying attachment and affection towards its family. One day the little pigeons were caught by a fowler; by seeing this, unable to bear the pain, the female pigeon fell into the net by itself. Then seeing the whole family in trouble, the male pigeon also voluntarily fell into the net. The fowler had a nice catch. Undying attraction and affection towards the family destroyed the whole family. This problem exists very commonly in the present time. Some families unable to bear the pain, loss or failure of a single person in the family, the other members of the family also become a victim to that pain and failure. Instead of supporting the person in pain, the whole family becomes a victim. Intense love or attachment to anyone will result in excruciating suffering and pain. A miserable family man with uncontrolled senses comes to grief together with his belongings.
9. Over enjoyment of the senses will definitely lead a person to misery. A man of controlled mind and senses will not exert himself too much for food or other enjoyments. He just eats to live. He concentrates more on his duty and leaves the results and other benefits to follow him. He will not go after the benefits rather he takes what he gets. A Self controlled person is well aware of the fact that rewards are brought by destiny. This lesson is learned from the python which just takes in what comes its way. It will not exert much pressure to go and collect its food.
10. An ocean never gets dried up or overflow by the quantity of the water that comes to it. It is the nature of the ocean to maintain its water level. The ocean never overflows or dries up. Just like that a stable intelligent person will be placid and profound. A person must be able to maintain his calmness in abundance of joy and in tragedy. The lesson the Sage learnt from the ocean.
11. An intelligent self controlled man will not become a prey for gold, women or any other objects of enjoyment. The Sage learnt this lesson from the moth. The moth is unaware of the danger of the fire; it goes to the fire thinking that it is a bright light. A man of uncontrolled senses fails to discriminate.
12. In the modern world and in the ancient times, women are used as a trap to extract money, position, status, and what more, even to extract a person’s life. The Sage learnt this lesson from the elephant which falls in the trap of men, who uses the she-elephant as a trap. Just for the attachment for the sense of touch, the elephant goes after the she-elephant and finally the she-elephant will escape, but the elephant will live its entire life in captivity and misery. A wise person will always overcome the attraction towards the opposite gender.
13. An intelligent self controlled person should take the essence out of all sources, from the scriptures, from the people they meet, from situations they face etc. This keen observation will definitely make a person wise. This lesson the Sage learnt from the honeybee which extracts honey from all the flowers they sit on.
14. Everyone needs wealth to survive but when it exceeds a limit, the wealth itself will become a factor for our own destruction. The Sage learnt this lesson from the honey gatherer. The honey gatherer destroys the bee hive and drives away the honey bees to extract honey. The wealth accumulated by a miser without himself enjoying or making charitable gifts is knocked away by someone who knows about it, just as the honey gatherer. In the modern world, people are killed or disturbed cruelly to snatch their hard earned wealth. Poet Bhartrihari says that wealth must be either given away in charity or utilized personally, else it will fill the pockets of the robbers!
15. A wise man should not be a slave to the vulgar music, lest he will thereby get entangled. This lesson is learnt by the Sage from the deer, which is captured through the hunter’s imitative cry of the doe. Music is a very powerful medium which entangles the mind in it. Divine music calms the mind; vulgar music deludes the mind.
16. Behind every sense pleasure there lurks a reaction. Men perish through the attraction of the palate which causes intense excitement in the mind. The Sage learnt this lesson from the fish which is caught by its bait. Taste is a very powerful sense by which a man can be easily overpowered. When the organ of the taste is controlled, the other senses can be easily controlled.
17. Pingala was a courtesan, an ignorant woman of uncontrolled mind, who seek satisfaction from unworthy men looked upon them as lovers. She was greedy after money and waited for rich men whom she thought would satisfy her greediness. Soon she realized that her expectations are in vain and suddenly she felt an unattached feeling towards her body. She began to feel, that she gave much importance to the body which is filled with impurities, and she wasted the life by neglecting the Atman which is the source of happiness. From the courtesan’s life the Sage learnt that “expectation is the greatest misery, and giving up all expectation is the greatest bliss”. In the technological world, expectations cannot be avoided, but it is foolish to depend on expectations.
18. Honour and dishonour disturbs the mind of all people and only a Sage who has realized the Atma and a child are free from this expectation. A child is free and least cared about the honour and dishonour. The child is always immersed in supreme bliss because of this habit. The Sage learnt this lesson from the child.
19. When we have something to share and give (wealth and position), the whole world will be around us. Sometimes others may also disturb us for our possessions. This lesson the Sage learnt from the osprey which had a piece of meat and attacked by other powerful birds that had no meat. When the osprey dropped the piece of meat, the other birds were after the meat and left the osprey free. The world is always after the possessions.
20. If too many people live together, quarrel will be the result. If we are alone, we will have time and peace of mind to realize the Atma. This lesson the Sage learnt from a maiden who broke all the bangles she were wearing except one,to avoid the noise made by the bangles.
21. The Sage learnt the power of concentration from the arrow maker who was too busy making his arrows and did not even notice the procession of the king which is passing near his work place. A person must have the mind controlled within him. A person of great concentration will not know anything external or internal and is completely absorbed in his work. Such concentration power will definitely lead to success.
22. From the spider the Sage learnt the theory of evolution and dissolution. Just as the spider brings out its web from within itself through the mouth, sports in it for some time and then withdraws it into itself, so does the Supreme Being create, spread and withdraw the universe all by Himself. The universe is not different from Brahman.
23. If a person rests in a permanent resting place, he will be dependent on his surroundings. This curbs his independent nature. He may feel uncomfortable to adjust to new atmosphere and situations. He should always move out, instead of staying in the same place for a long time. Even though he may not have his own resting place at different places, he must feel comfortable to stay in the place of others, just like a snake which always stays in the place of other beings. This lesson the Sage learnt from the snake.
24. On whatever object a corporeal being may concentrate his whole mind, either through love or through hate or through fear, he attains the form of that very object. The wasp places the worm in a hole and continuously frightens it by its buzzing sound. The worm inside thinks and thinks of that wasp till it attains a form partly resembling that of the wasp. The personality and mentality changes according to the strong impressions in our mind, just like the worm which has strong impressions about the wasp. This lesson the Sage learned from the wasp.
We have to leave even this body behind, because it is not our own. Body is only used by the mind to gather experience and learn from its experiences. In due course the mind evolves to perfection. The mind evolves more and more and ultimately expands to infinity. An intelligent person understands about this journey and conducts his life according to the knowledge he has gathered in his lifetime by using this body. When we are ready to learn, the universe will become a teacher. In this modern technological world, these twenty four teachers from nature help us to evolve as a perfect person. These teachers elevate us from our present mental state. These teachers help us to control our mind. A soul takes the human form only after many births in various forms(bodies). A human form is very rare, it must be used in the most profitable way( i.e for self realization), else the greatness and the unique nature of the human form is wasted.