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 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 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 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 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.



Sanskrit is an ancient language.  Sanskrit is said as the language of the Veda.  Sanskrit language is a high vibration language.  When mantras are chanted in Sanskrit language they link us to the transcendental state.  Mantras must be chanted with right tone, pronunciation and accent.  Only then the right vibration is set and it will help us to link to the higher level. 

In the ancient period the Vedas were not codified.  The students studied the Vedic verses by oral rendition.  Later the Vedas were codified by Sage Veda Vyasa.  In the modern time, the translation and transliteration of the Vedas are available in print form and in electronic form.  Sanskrit is the language which is traditionally used by Vedantic teachers and Guru’s to explain Brahman or Atma.  Now, the question is can language explain Brahman or Atma.  Language explains the experiences of the material world.  In that sense, language explains only the dualities.  Language cannot explain the non-dual Brahman.  Language can explain objects; how can language explain the subject, Brahman?  Language can explain the existing Universe but not the Existence itself.  Brahman is no-thing, meaning it is the subject.  Words and thoughts cannot penetrate Brahman.  Language can explain what it is and what it is not.  Sri Adi Sankaracharya, in the explanation given for the Mandukya Upanisad explains the reason why Brahman cannot be explained by any language.  If any object need to be explained by language then the object must need the five basic identities.  They are

  • Jati (characteristics) – A particular characteristic that is common for a class.  For example, all the animals that have horn belong to one jati or class of animals.  Brahman has no characteristics and so it cannot be explained by language.
  • Guna (quality) – all the beings in the world have a guna.  Even the non-sentient objects have guna and language can explain those objects.  Brahman is nirguna.  Brahman has no qualities and so it cannot be explained by language. 
  • Kriya (action or function) – all the beings in this world perform an action and language can explain its action.  However, Brahman is actionless (nishkriya) and so language cannot explain Brahman.
  • Sambandha (relationship) – every being is related to one being or other and language can explain it; however, Brahman is asanga (non-attached).  Relationships exist only in duality.  Brahman is non-dual and it is not related or attached to anyone.  Therefore language cannot explain a non-dual reality.
  • Ruri (convention) – ruri is the name given for a form for the identification of that form mostly based on their behaviour.  Every form in this world has a name and language can explain it.  However, Brahman has no name and it cannot be pointed out and identified with a form.  Brahman has no identification.  Language cannot explain something which cannot be pointed out and identified.

Therefore, language needs jati, guna, kriya, sambandha, and ruri to explain an object.  Brahman does not have any one of these and so it cannot be explained by language.  These are the limitations of the language. Even though these are the limitations of the language, the scriptures and the teachers of Veda use language to explain Brahman.

 Brahman is understood only by silence.  That is why the Jagad guru Sri Dakshinamurthy is portrayed as a silent guru.  In front of the Jagad guru the doubts are dissolved, not resolved.  However, he is beyond the reach of a layman.  Therefore, the teachers as well as the scriptures use language as a medium to explain Brahman to a certain level.  Language can explain that Brahman is the Self.  However, one has to realize the Self.  Vedanta teachers or guru cannot explain Brahman beyond a limit.  After that limit one has to realize Brahman by one self.  Based on this Sri Adi Sankaracharya says in Atma shadagam,  there is no Veda, no guru or sishya, no mantra or thirtha to realize the Self.  After a certain limit, one has to travel in the path of Self realization in solitude, with the Atma lighting up the path.

Language is a very good pointer, nothing more can be expected from language.  As a pointer, language uses three traditional methods to make us understand about Brahman.

Neti-neti method of the Upanishads – neti means ‘not this’.  The first neti indicates, that ‘it does not mean that Brahman does not exist’.  Brahman exists.  The second neti indicates that Brahman is not an object.  It is a subject.  Thus by negating the objects, the subject can be realized.  Brahman is the existence of all begins. 

The second method is the lakshana (characteristics).  Lakshanas are like pointers.  Lakshana uses the material world as a pointer to indicate the truth.  Language superimposes the non-real world to indicate the substratum, Brahman.  It says, ‘Brahman is that on which the non-real world is superimposed’.  When you remove the world from your mind then what appears in Brahman.

 The mahavakyas from the upanisads also use the technique of lakshana to indicate Brahman.  The famous mahavakya, “Tat Tvam Asi”, indicate that “You are That, Brahman”.  When this statement is analyzed, the attributes of a person are not taken for comparison.  The Universal   Consciousness is compared with the individual Consciousness.  Lakshana uses a pointer to indicate the Reality.

The third method is the method of using paradoxical statements to explain Brahman.  Language of paradox clears doubt about Brahman.  Some of the paradoxical statements used in the scriptures are,

  1. Seeing action in inaction – this statement clarifies the doubt between the Atma and anatma.  It says that Atma is actionless and anatma is performing action.
  2. Unchanging Consciousness appears to be changing – this statement also clears the doubt about the action of Atma.  Atma is actionless. Anatma changes.
  3. Brahman is different from the known and different from the unknown – which implies that Brahman is different from whatever we know and different from whatever we do not know.  Brahman is not an object.
  4. Those who say I know Brahman do not know Brahman and those who say I do not know Brahman knows Brahman – which implies that Brahman is not an object to be known.  It is beyond the grasp of the mind.
  5. Brahman is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest – which implies that Brahman is infinite and whatever is smaller or bigger, are included in it.

These are some of the paradoxical statements about Brahman taken at random from the scriptures.  Language of paradox helps to understand the infinite nature of Brahman and removes the misunderstanding about the nature of Brahman.  Finite and mortal world is superimposed on the infinite Brahman; due to this the unchanging Consciousness appears to be changing.  This is the cause of samsara.  This superimposition must be first understood and then it must be removed. 

Language explains the subject, in the way it explains the object.  As said earlier, language has a limit.  Language helps us to climb on the ladder of spirituality up to that limit.  After that we have to realize the inexpressible of our selves.  Brahman is realized by deep contemplation in silence.


Jiva is a combination of Chit, chitabasa and the mind.  Citabasa is the reflection of Chit, the pure Consciousness, on the mind.  The deeper layers of the mind have all our past karmic impressions.  Mind gets activated only when the chitabasa (reflected consciousness) falls on the mind.  A jiva passes through the three states namely the jagrad (waking), swapna (dream), sushupti (deep sleep) avastas, and it experiences pain and pleasure.  The jiva, to experience the karmic impressions, takes a suitable body.  The body and mind complex is called anatma. 

Samsara, the worldly life, is the misidentification of Atma(Chit) and the anatma.  Due to the close proximity between the Atma(Chit) and anatma and due to anyonya adhyasa or paraspara adhyasa (mutual superimposition), the Atma superimposes its nature of eternity on the anatma.  At the same time, the anatma superimposes its nature of mortality on Atma.  Therefore the anatma by time, when it approaches old age it cannot accept the aging process and its consequences because it has assumed itself to be eternal, Atma.  The Atma due to the misidentification, forgetting its eternal nature, always feels that it is perishable and it does not feel its eternal nature.  Here what is actually meant by Atma is chitabasa, the reflection of the Atma.  Chitabasa imagines itself to be anatma and assumes itself to be mortal.  Chitabasa does not know its real nature.  Due to the close proximity it forgets its source.  The misidentification is the root cause for bondage.  Actually, a little correction in the understanding of facts leads to moksha.  The truth always exists as same. 

The Atma is always real and the anatma is mortal.  The jiva which is the combination of chitabasa and mind, when it understands the Truth it loses its individuality and merges in Brahman.  Atma is the Reality and jiva is a myth.  The jiva assumes itself to be karta (doer) and bhokta (enjoyer) and leads a painful life.  A jnani, who has wisdom, is well aware of the misidentification and wrong superimposition.  He very well knows that chitabasa is the reflection of Brahman or Atma.  He knows his real nature as eternal and remains peaceful as a witness. 

The above mentioned superimposition is useful for worldly life.  A person cannot transact in this material world by assuming himself as Atma.  The transactional world and the world of reality are at two different levels.  Therefore, a jnani while transacting in this world he imagines himself as jiva.  During meditation or deep inside he is well aware of his true nature as Brahman or Atma.  At the same time, a common man assumes himself as mortal jiva and assumes himself as doer and enjoyer.  He is not aware of the misidentification.

Identification of ego – the I consciousness

One can analyze the I – consciousness at three levels.  Each level goes deeper and deeper. 

The primary level is, when I say “I”, it refers to jiva.  As said earlier, jiva is the combination of Chit, chitbasa and the mind.  Chit is Brahman, pure consciousness.  It does not have any ego.  Mind is inactive without chitabasa.  Chitabasa is reflection of pure consciousness.  It cannot have ego.  However, when the chitabasa joins with the mind then that combination assumes ego and says “I”.  Hence, jiva identifies with ego.  When jiva identifies with body it says “This is my body”.  When the jiva identifies with the mind it says, “My ideas”. And so on.  This is the primary level of I consciousness. 

In the secondary level, let us see how the ego consciousness works in a jnani.  A jnani is well aware of the difference between the Chit, chitabasa and mind.  When he transact with the world, and when he say “I”, he is referring to chitabasa.  When he say ‘I am doing’, he is referring to chitabasa.  In the philosophical sense when he say, “I am Brahman”, then he is referring to Chit.  He is well aware of the difference between Chit and chitabasa and he knows when to apply them appropriately.  Deep inside he is well aware that he is Chit, Brahman. 

Now in the very deep third level of analysis, when a jnani says,’I am Brahman’, who is saying this? Is it the Brahman itself or the chitabasa saying ‘I am Brahman’.  When we analyze, there is no need for Brahman to identify itself as Brahman.  Moreover, Brahman is pure consciousness.  It does not have ego.  Therefore Brahman do not Self-identify as Brahman.

Chitabasa is the reflection of Brahman.  It cannot identify with the reality.  However, a sruti in panchadasi says, it is chitabasa saying ‘ I am Brahamn’.  The sruti says, the reflection of any object is similar to that object itself.  In that sense the reflection of Brahman is similar to Brahman.  For example, an image of an object in a mirror is not distinct from the object it reflects.  Every image requires a real base, in this context the base is Brahman.  Though the reflection is not as same as Brahman, it is similar to Brahman.  Therefore, only chitabasa is qualified to say, ‘Iam Brahamn’.  When chitabasa says’ I am Brahamn’, it implies that jiva says,’I am Brahamn’.  Once when chitabasa understand that it is the reflection of the supreme Consciousness, it is devoid of worries and this state of contentment reflects in the mind.  Moreover, a jnani’s mind is filled with the impressions of Brahman.  The reflected consciousness, chitbasa is no more needed to illumine the impressions of Brahman.  It is at this juncture the chitabasa loses its individuality.  The reflection merges with Reality, The Brahman.  Since the chitabasa merges in Brahman, the mind also loses its individual identity.  It is at this stage the jnani sees non-duality in the world.  The world is a mere appearance in his Consciousness.

When we further analyze who gets jnana? – Is it Brahman, combination of jiva or chitabasa?  The plight of the jiva is due to the chitabasa.  Eventhough, chitabasa is the reflection of Brahman, due to anyonya adhyasa (mutual superimposition) it forgot its source and its real nature.  It does not know that it is reflection of Brahman itself.  This ignorant nature of the chitabasa is reflected in the mind. 

When one gains knowledge from scriptures or Guru, the impressions are settled in the mind as Brahmakara vritti.  However, these impressions are activated when the chitabasa illumines it.  At one stage, chitabasa is not longer needed to illumine the Brahmakara vrittis.  It can illumine, but it is not needed.  It is just like seeing the hot sun with the help of a torch light.  The impressions in the mind are directly illumined by Brahman.  Now the chitabasa loses its identity and merges in Brahman. 

For the question who gets jnana? The answer is, the chitabasa gets jnana.  It is the chitabasa that is affected by lack of knowledge due to misidentification.  It is the chitabasa which feels that it is bond.  It is the chitabasa that undergoes change.  All these transformation of the chitabasa are reflected in the mind.  It is the chitabasa that gets jnana(knowledge) and chitabasa gets liberated  and feels that its base is Brahman.  This is reflected in the mind.  Jivatma is not different from the paramatma.

When the chitabasa finds its original base the individual existence of jiva disappears.  This is the liberation for jiva, meaning it is relived from its unnecessary imaginations and superimposition.