Aim of being reborn within the spiritual motherhood is known to almost every religion


"Sakthism is an eminently practical religion. Practically the whole content of its scriptures consists in rules and ritual by which the higher realisation of the spiritual truth may be gained.

This way of personal spiritual attainment, or Yoga, which is known to all Indian religions, is called in Sakthism, Sadhaana. Very often the remark can be found in the Tantrik texts that by merely pondering about the husks of words nothing is done, i.e., mere book-knowledge is useless—but that only by practically touching the truth itself can liberation, bliss and the highest consciousness be won. This truth, to which Sakthism is devoted with all its energy, is represented by the conception of the goddess Shakti. Such a conception, that truth unveils itself spiritually in a female aspect, can only be grasped with difficulty by the European mind. The European mind is not accustomed to see differences between male and female in the spiritual world, and finds them only as far as physical sexual differences can still be discerned. But the idea of a female quality of the spirit has always been known to the deeper minds of humanity and stretches through the whole inner history of culture. Leaving aside the cults of aboriginal tribes, animism, etc., there may be mentioned, in addition to the Goddess Shakti of Indian culture, the conception of Isis in the Egyptian religion, of the figure Kwannon in China, the idea of Eve in Babylonian times and many others leading up to that connected with the Madonna of the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly there are very interesting and important differences in all these great conception; but it would go too far here to treat of this special subject. It is mentioned only to show that female spirituality has always played an important role in human thought.

The Goddess Shakti is the"power"Which pervades the whole of the universe, and from which the Universe has emanated. There is nothing within the manifest world, which is not Shakti in its essence. The manifest world is mind and matter, that is to say, all that we call our thought, will, imagination, etc. is mind, and all the realm of nature is matter.

She—in her highest aspect—is pure spirit or pure consciousness —as such she is called Chit-Shakti—but her nature and essence become apparent also in all that we are aware of through our senses. So She is matter—substance too—and as such She is called Maya-Shakti. Here is no antagonism between the spiritual and the natural sides of the universe, since she is both of them....

It follows consequently that in every individual being, which to a certain extent becomes conscious of itself, there must be living a tendency to become liberated from this separation, to come back to this primordial union."Back to The Mother", it may be said, is the shortest expression for the spiritual aim of the whole of Indian culture and especially of Sakthism. A deeply—felt longing prevails within the religious mind of India; a longing like that of a child for its mother. It is important to note this, since it is this longing, which gives the impulse to the means by which the aim of coming back to The Mother may be attained. These means are called the Yoga of Sakthism, i.e., Sadhaana. The principles of Yoga are almost the same in all the different Indian systems, of which they form an essential part. By urging concentration of thought upon certain important ideas, they aim at giving to these ideas more strength and clearness than they usually have.

The meditator excludes himself from all outer influences, in order to bring his mind into direct contact with the spiritual world. In the end he will eventually realise what his Scriptures have taught him, that his essence is Spirit, and his mind and body its manifestations. I may mention here that a modern"Western"Way of"Yoga"has been introduced into Europe by the spiritual system," Anthroposophy", of Dr. Rudolf Steiner. In all ages such kinds of spiritual endeavour have been practised. If man succeeds in actually realising the inner meaning of metaphysics, he becomes, as it is called," initiated", that is, he becomes a citizen of the spiritual world, just as he is a citizen of the natural world by his physical birth. The Yoga of Sakthism specializes in conceptions of the Goddess Shakti. If She appears to the Shakta, as She is in Herself, the highest realisation, the Union with The Mother is attained. Then the Shakta says: She I am, and feels himself full of the greatest spiritual bliss.

As I have already mentioned, Sakthism is an eminently practical Religion. It attempts an immediate realisation of truth by the practical methods of"Yoga."...

All the rites of Sakthism, of which I have here mentioned only one, tend in such a direction as to awaken within him the spiritual and aesthetically productive forces of man. As soon as these usually slumbering forces are awakened, the Shakta knows and feels himself as being born again within the spiritual world. The Shakta says," As I am born in my physical body from my mother, so I must be spiritually born again from my spiritual mother, the Goddess Shakti."By the grace of Shakti the Shakta himself becomes Brahma. As a matter of fact, every spiritual man strives for the attainment of such a state, of being reborn in the spiritual sense. Only the expressions are different and the means and ways vary. In Sakthism it is striking to notice with what absoluteness and how independently of all other systems of religion the physical appearance and the highest spiritual realisation are combined together. If Shakti is everywhere, then she is, too, in the bodily appearance of the women and there, however veiled, in her fullest essence. So he makes use of her for the greatest spiritual aim of man, namely to be reborn by the grace of Shakti.

Now I have said that this aim of being reborn within the spiritual motherhood is known to almost every religion, and, although Buddhism in its fundamental basis at first seems to be utterly different from Sakthism, yet Northern Buddhism knows well what is meant by Shakti. Mahayana Buddhism, as it is prevalent in Tibet, by which country Sakthism too has been much influenced, has introduced into its system during its development the Goddess Tara. She represents what Shakti is for Sakthism. She is the embodiment of all that within the spiritual realisation is distinctly female; and it is a very secret saying in esoteric Northern Buddhism that man, by being reborn from Tara, will become a Buddha, that is, will attain the highest spiritual state of life to which man is destined and for which he is striving. within esoteric Christianity there is the picture of Jesus Christ lying in the stable-manger as the new-born child before the immaculate Virgin Mary. It is intended to portray not only the story of the historical birth of Jesus, but at the same time a representation of the idea that we all have to be reborn as such a Christ-child of the Virgin Mary, the Shakti of Christianity.

You see, there can be discovered, within so widely differing religious systems as Sakthism, Northern Buddhism and Christianity, the same important idea as that of being reborn by the grace of Shakti as Brahma, of being reborn by Tara as a Buddha, and of being reborn by Madonna as a Christian. As a matter of fact, the female spiritual element as it is venerated by Sakthism, being a living truth, can to a certain extent become a combining factor to embrace the great cultural outlook both of the East and the West. Humanity is one over all the earth, and Womanhood is its essential part. In Sakthism the idea of the spiritual creative force of Womanhood finds its most absolute and exclusive expression. For this reason this system is so interesting and striking for anyone who takes the trouble to go more deeply into it. Shakti, as she is pleased to reveal herself today, is present, too, within the depths of European culture. It would take me too far a field to prove it by further details. I would only mention that Goethe concludes his great poem," Faust", with the words: "The eternal female is raising us." Certainly, Goethe had no knowledge of the system of Sakthism and of those texts, which we are now privileged to study. But by his poetical inspiration he touched by himself the truth, which we find so clearly expressed in the system of Sakthism. If one would try to express the deepest meaning which Sakthism may have for us in our days, it cannot be done better than by those words which the mystical chorus sings at the end of this great poem: Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan."The eternal female is raising us."

The Indian Religion of the Goddess Shakti
DR. HANS KOESTER
THE JOURNAL OF THE SIAM SOCIETY
Vol.23, part 1 1929 July




The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji
The Spirit-Paraclete
"The Self is the Spirit. This Spirit resides in the heart of every human being and is in a witness-like state. The Spirit is the projection of God Almighty, while the Kundalini is the projection of the power of God, of His desire which is the Primordial Mother, or you can call it Adi Shakti, Holy Ghost or Athena. So the Kundalini is the projection of the Holy Ghost, while the Spirit is the projection of God Almighty. The All-pervading Power of love is the power of the Primordial Mother, which creates and evolves, and does all the living work."- Shri Mataji Nirmal Devi


Question: How does one discard all the suffocating rules and manmade rituals (of the present Sahaja Yoga organization) never initiated by Shri Mataji and seek her (Holy Spirit/Adi Shakti) only in the Sahastrara (Kingdom of God)?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: Despite being years in Sahaja Yoga I do not agree with what our leaders are doing. I am thinking of leaving my collective. Can you suggest something that will help me continue on my own?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I am a Muslim who absolutely am against worshipping of any idol or image. How then is Sahaja Yoga and Shri Mataji compatible with Islam?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: We are devout Christians who are very uncomfortable with Hindu rituals, and see the same in Sahaja Yoga. Is there any way we can do without such rituals?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: You loudly claim on your website that all religions and holy scriptures preach the same message. I don't see such evidence. What have you got to say?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I do not want to meditate on anything non-Christian but agree that the Holy Spirit is feminine. How do I only worship the Holy Spirit but not the Adi Shakti?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: My parents and husband are against worshipping Shri Mataji. How can I solve this serious family problem but still continue to practice Sahaja Yoga without their knowledge?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I completely agree with your belief that if you have to take a single step in any direction to seek the Divine you are going the wrong way. How and why did you reach this incredible conclusion only now despite spending so many years meditating, checking the scriptures and listening to Shri Mataji's speeches?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: How can we spread Shri Mataji's message successfully? So many have failed all these years and Sahaja Yoga is very slow. Most of the seekers have never heard of Shri Mataji. Other than Her Divine Message what can we teach new seekers that will attract them?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I do not want to follow any religious organization or yoga teacher but still am interested in spirituality. You think that is possible?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: My mother-in-law is totally against Shri Mataji and regards Her as just another false guru. But I know Shri Mataji is the Adi Shakti and want to continue. However, i do not want to antagonize my mother-in-law. Any suggestions?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I am a Sikh. I am completely against any Hindu ritual or worshipping of their idols and gods. Sikhism is completely against such practices. But Sahaja Yoga is also so full of such rituals and gods. What have you got to say, being a Sikh yourself?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I am getting somewhat ridiculed for my own spiritual experiences regarding the crown chakra and the divine feminine. People think I'm weird by emphasizing that the Devi is the true nature of brahman and it is creating doubt about my path (despite my own experiences). Should I continue with my meditations and ignore them or try to explain to them? What do you suggest?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: There is so much information about yoga and meditation. I am so confused and do not know which path to take. What then is the truth? How do I attain it?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I have been in Sahaja Yoga for years but still do not know what is Self-realization. Can you tell me in detail what you understand by it?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I have been a SY for many years and some of us find shoe-beating and some rituals quite absurd. You also are against them. How then can we solve our subtle system problems without such treatments?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I am a Muslim living in Pakistan who want to practice Sahaja Yoga. But there are no centers here. How can I continue?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: What will happen after Shri Mataji passes away? Will She still be in the photograph? Where will the vibrations come from then?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I have just started meditating on Shri Mataji in the Sahasrara but find it very difficult. Is there a better way?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I do not want to join Sahaja Yoga but believe in a number of Shri Mataji's teachings. Can you help me?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I am an established SYogini who am concerned at the way the organization is heading. However, I still want to spread Shri Mataji's teachings. What do you suggest I tell others?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: I want to practice meditation but find it impossible to stop the thoughts. I value you opinion. If you don't mind my asking, but how do you do it?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: What is the shortest and surest route to realize God?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: Some religions claim that humans are divine in nature and that liberation is from within. Can you tell me how all this is realized in such a hectic and materialistic world?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: As a SY I am concerned that after Shri Mataji takes Mahasamadhi there will great grief and sense of loss. How can I cope with this eventuality and continue my faith and devotion? Do I continue to meditate on Her photo even though She is not physically present anymore?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: Jagbir, you are already telling us to discard Shri Mataji's photo and meditate on Her is the Sahasrara. A number of SYs have been offended by this and have left. What makes you so sure you are right?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: What is the most profound and deepest enlightenment you have discovered after all these years, based on the teachings of Shri Mataji? She also claims that all religions teach the same truth about the spirit. How is that so given all the religious differences and centuries-old rivalry?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: Hi, man-made religions, sects and denominations are wide spread. So much misdeeds and divisions are committed and blood is shed in the name of God and religion. Is there a way to make humans realize that they are all worshipping the One and same Creator, no matter how different religious organizations have made God to be?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Question: It seems that religions are all preaching about a God that is to be found only in their organizations. Why then is it that the Divine can only be realized through one's own experience? What and where is God then?

Answer: Silence on Spirit (Brahman)


Vensus A. George, Authentic human destiny: the paths of Shankara and Heidegger
PARAA VIDHYAA
THE NOUMENAL STATE OF MAN


In the last chapter, we looked into the phenomenal state of man, as considered by Shankara. This chapter attempts to study the noumenal state of man. According to Shankara, man's ultimate destiny does not consist in being caught up in the phenomenal existence; rather, man is called to live at a depth at which he must experience the source of the universe within himself. The task of man is not to search for his ultimate destiny outside, but to move into himself and discovering the ultimate in the cave of his heart. It is not a new knowledge, but a realization of what one really is. Paraa vidhyaa, therefore, is nothing else but a self-realization in which one experiences Brahman (Brahmaanubhava) as one's own indwelling spirit (Aatman). This chapter deals with the goal, nature and characteristics of para vidhya.

2.1.1. THE GOAL OF PARAA VIDHYAA

The goal of para vidhya is Brahman, the ultimate universal spirit behind the universe and Aatman, the ultimate principle in the individual. Only when one has true knowledge about both Brahman and Aatman, can one begin to experience the oneness between these two. In this section, we will clarify these two notions, in preparation for the analysis of the nature of para vidhya.

2.1.1. BRAHMAN

The word 'Brahman'[1] is derived from the Sanskrit root 'brih' which literally means ato gush forth', ato grow', ato be great', and ato increase'. The suffix 'man' added to the root 'brih' signifies the absence of limitation. Thus, the term 'Brahman' etymologically means that which is absolutely the greatest.[2] So 'Brahman' denotes"that first ... reality from which the entire universe of our experience has sprung up."[3] In the words of the Vedaanta-Suutras," Brahman is that omniscient, omnipotent cause from which proceeds the origin of the world."[4] Thus, the term 'Brahman' signifies the absolute and ultimate reality which is the substratum and the foundation of the world we know, and on which everything depends for its existence. Brahman is self-sufficient and does not depend on anything else for its existence. Hence it must be spiritual entity, since matter is not self-sufficient, limited and subject to change. George Thibault, in his introduction to the Vedaanta-Suutraas, says that whatever exists is in reality one, and this one universal being is called Brahman. This being is absolutely homogeneous in nature; it is pure Being, Intelligence and Thought. Intelligence or thought is not predicated of Brahman as its attribute, but constitutes its substance. Brahman is not a thinking being, but thought itself. It is absolutely destitute of qualities and whatever qualities or attributes are conceivable can only be denied of it.[5] Thus, Brahman is without qualities (nirguna), beyond the order of our empirical and worldly experience. We cannot grasp Brahman with our empirical experiences, since the being of Brahman is necessary for anything to exist, and even for the possibility of empirical experience. In other words, Brahman is a priori and cannot be grasped by a posteriori or limited experience.

Because of our inability to grasp the true nature of Brahman, whatever positive description is developed about Brahman will remain in the level of phenomenal experience, and Brahman is beyond all phenomena. That is why we find contrary characteristics attributed to Brahman. In Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad, we read that Brahman is"light and not light, desire and absence of desire, anger and absence of anger, righteousness and absence of righteousness."[6] Kaatha Upanishad speaks of Brahman as"smaller than the small, greater than the great, sitting yet moving, lying and yet going everywhere."[7] Brahman is light and not light, in the sense that it is only because there is Brahman that there is light and darkness. Again there exist small and the greater only because Brahman exists.

At the same time the word 'existence' cannot be attributed to Brahman and to the empirical world in the same way, for Brahman's existence is different in nature. The existence of Brahman is opposed to all empirical existence, so that in comparison with this it can just as well be considered as non-existence. Brahman is the being of all beings.[8] The nature of Brahman is so transcendent, that it cannot be compared with anything in the world we know. At the same time, Brahman is present in all its manifestations, for without the Being of Brahman nothing can exist. Yet the empirical experience of Brahman is not possible. Thus, Brahman is that unalterable and absolute Being which remains identical with itself in all its manifestations. It is the basis and ground of all experience, and is different from the space-time-cause world. Brahman has nothing similar to it, nothing different from it, and no internal differentiation, for all these are empirical distinctions. It is non-empirical, non-objective, wholly other, but it is not non-being.[9]

Shankara repeatedly speaks of, and strongly defends, the absolute, unchangeable, attributeless nature of Brahman, alluding to many texts in the scripture which points to the nirgunaa Brahman.[10] Commenting on the Upanishadic text," as a lump of salt is without interior or exterior, entire and purely saline taste, even so is the self (Brahman) without exterior or interior, entire and pure intelligence only,[11] Shankara points to the oneness of Brahman. In the lump of salt there is nothing other than salt, so too Brahman is nothing other than itself. It is the absolute being without a second.[12] Shankara also uses the example of the sun reflecting in water and appearing as many, in order to bring home the same truth. He says that just as the reflection of the sun in water increases with the increase of water, and decreases with its reduction, it moves when the water moves, and it differs as the water differs, so is the self. The sun seem to conform to the characteristics of water, but in reality the sun never has these increasing or decreasing qualities. So also Brahman, which from the highest point of view always retains its sameness, seems to conform to such characteristics as increase and decrease of the limiting adjunct owing to its entry into such an adjunct as a body.[13]

For Shankara, therefore, Brahman is a principle of utter simplicity. There is no duality in Brahman, for no qualities are found in his concept of Brahman. It is also simple in the sense that it is not subject to inner contradictions, which would make it changeable and transitory. Though Shankara uses logic and arguments to understand the nature of Brahman and to speak of Brahman, still for him in its reality Brahman is not a metaphysical postulate that can be proved logically, but must be experienced in silence.[14] Thus, Brahman is one: It is not a 'He', a personal being; nor is it an 'It', an impersonal concept. It is that state which comes about when all subject-object distinctions are obliterated. Ultimately, Brahman is a name for the experience of the timeless plenitude of Being.[15]

2.1.2. AATMAN

The term 'Aatman' comes from the Sanskrit root 'an' which etymologically means 'to breathe'. It is often rendered as 'soul' or 'self', and signifies the most fundamental being of the individual. There is no one who can deny the existence of the self for it is the basis of all individual actions. Everyone is conscious of the existence of his self and never thinks that he is not.[16] To doubt the existence of the self would be a contradiction in terms because then one would doubt the existence of the very doubter who engages in the doubt. The doubter of the self is often compared by Advaitins to a person who searches for the necklace while wearing it; or to a person who wears the spectacles on his face and at the same time looks for them elsewhere. Without the existence of the self, it is impossible for us to entertain the idea even of its being capable of refutation. For the knowledge of the self is not established through the so-called means of right knowledge, but it is self-established.[17] Thus, the very existence of understanding and its functions presuppose an intelligence known as the self which is different from them, which is self-established and which they subserve. [18] The very possibility of knowledge and the means of knowledge (pramaanas) have relevance if there exists the self which is the source of all knowledge. Therefore, Aatman is beyond all doubt," for it is the essential nature of him who denies it."[19] Therefore, Shankara believed that it was the nature of the self and not its reality, which is to be proved."The self must seek itself in order to find what it is, not that it is."[20]

Having established the existence of the self, we can turn now to the discussion of the nature of the Aatman. Aatman is the deathless, birthless, eternal and real substance in every individual soul. It is the unchanging reality behind the changing body, sense organs, mind and ego. It is the spirit, which is pure consciousness and in unaffected by time, space and causality. It is limitless and without a second. [21] Vedantins speak of three states of consciousness, namely the waking state (vishwa), the dream state (taijasa), and the state of dreamless sleep (pragna). The basic underlying principle which witnesses all these three states of one's existence is the pure consciousness (chaitanyam), the self. It is because of the presence of this ultimate substratum, that the body, the senses, the mind and the intellect function properly. At the same time it is not identified with these, nor affected by the changes that take place in the body, in the other sense or intellectual functions. Thus, Aatman.is the "unrelated witness of the experiences of the three stages, which include a man's diverse activities."[22]

Shankara gives a number of illustrations to clarify the nature of the self, especially in its role of being a witness (saakshin) to all activities of body, mind, senses, and intellect. Firstly, Shankara gives the analogy of a king's court. In the court, the king sits in his high throne as the observer of the activities of his ministers, councilors and all the others present. But because of his majesty as the king, he is unique and different from all. So too the self which is pure consciousness dwells in the body as a witness to the functions of the body, mind and other faculties, while at the same time it is different from them by its natural light. Thus, the witness is the absolute consciousness, the unchanging intelligence that underlies the finer and grosser bodies. It is neither Iishvara nor jiva, but it is Aatman which is untouched by the distinction of Iishvara and jiva. [23]

To those who come with the objection that the self is not only a mere observer or witness, but also participates in the activities of the body, Shankara replies using the analogy of the moon and the clouds. The movement of the clouds on a moonlight night suggests that the moon is moving, whereas in fact it is the clouds that move. Likewise, the activities of the mind and senses create the illusion that the self is active. [24] To the one who would say that activity belongs to the senses or other faculties and considers them the self, Shankara gives the following illustrations. Just as the iron filings become active at the presence of the magnet, so also it is the presence of the self that makes the body, the senses and all the other faculties active. It is fire which makes the iron ball red-hot. So also neither can the mind, the intellect or the body combined make the self. It is the self which is the source of all their activities. Just as a man who works with the help of the light that in inherent in the sun does so without ever affecting the sun, so too the mind, the body, the intellect, and the senses, engage in their respective activities with the help of the self, but without exerting any influence on the self. [25] All these illustrations point to the basic and absolute nature of the Aatman. The following Upanishadic statement bear witness to this reality."That the imperishable is the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought thinker, the ununderstood understander. Other than It, there is naught that hears, other than It, there is naught that thinks; other than It, there is naught that understands. [26]

The terms 'Brahman' and 'Aatman', both basically denote one and the same underlying principle: the former stands for the underlying and unchanging principle of the universe; while the latter refers to the unchanging reality in the individuals. Both of these terms are used in the Upanishads and by the interpreters as synonyms they do interchange these two terms in the same sentence. Commenting on the Upanishadic statement: "Who is an Aatman? What is Brahman?", [27] Shankara remarks: "By Brahman, the limitations implied in the Aatman are removed, and by the Aatman the conception of Brahman as a divinity to be worshipped is condemned."[28] These two terms fundamentally refer to one and the same reality, which is the ground of everything. In other words, these two terms stand for two different descriptions of the same ultimate reality, from the point of view of the universe and the individual. The ultimate reality represented by these two terms is the goal of paraa vidhya or Brahmaanubhava.

2.2. NATURE OF PARAA VIDHYAA

We have analyzed the goal of paraa vidhya, in the preceding section. Here, we must attempt to clarify the nature of paraa vidhya, in which the Brahman-realization is attained by the seeker. We elaborate the nature of paraa vidhya, by looking into its meaning and clarifying the identity between Brahman and Aatman.

2.2.1. MEANING

Paraa Vidhya or Brahmaanubhava is the ultimate and monumental state of man. The term 'Bramaanubhava' is a compound word, which consists of two Sanskrit words, viz. 'Brahman' (absolute reality) and 'anubhava' (intuitive experience or knowledge). The term 'anubhava' means not a mere theoretical or intellectual knowledge, but the knowledge obtained through an integral experience. Anubhava is not the immediacy of an uninterrupted sensation, where the existence and the content of what is apprehended are separated. It is related to artistic insight rather than to animal instinct; it is an immediate knowledge.[29] Thus, literally the term 'Brahmaanubhava' means the integral and intuitive experience of the absolute reality. When we speak of the intuitive experience of Brahman, from the Advaitic point of view there arise many basic questions as to the nature of Brahmaanubhava. How is it possible to have an experience if there is no subject to experience and no object to be experienced? Besides, if there is no duality in an experience, can it be described? If Brahmaanubhava is an experience, and if it has no duality in itself as an experience, then what is the nature of the experience involved in Brahmaanubhava? These questions stem from the fact that the Advaita philosophy of Shankara does not permit the possibility of duality in this fundamental experience.

Possession of intellectual knowledge about the nature of Brahman and that of Brahmaanubhava is the first step towards the attainment of Brahmaanubhava. Obtaining intellectual knowledge by the study of the Scriptures, especially by understanding the meaning and the import of the Vedantic statements like athat art Thou', is necessary for Brahmaanubhava. In knowing the nature of Brahman intellectually, one can work towards the attainment of Brahmaanubhava. When we speak of the attainment of Brahmaanubhava, we use the term attainment' (labdha) in a figurative sense (upacara). [30] In an empirical experience we attain some new knowledge, i.e., knowledge which had not been previously existed as far as we were concerned. In Brahmaanubhava, however, we do not attain anything new, but only realize what we are, i.e., our true nature, the identity with Brahman. According to Shankara, we are Brahman, and Brahmaanubhava is that experience by which we recognize our own real nature.

Many texts in Shankara's works point to the fact that the attainment of Brahmaanubhava consists in the recognition and the realization that one's real and true nature is Brahman."The state of being Brahman is the same as the realization of the self."[31]"Perfect knowledge ... is the realization of the Aatman as one with Brahman."[32]"When a man knows the Aatman, and sees it inwardly and outwardly as the ground of all things animate and inanimate he has indeed reached liberation."[33]"No man who knows Brahman to be different from himself is a knower of truth."[34]"My self is pure consciousness, free from all distinctions and sufferings."[35] Thus, Brahmaanubhava which is the experience of identity with Brahman, is an attainment only from the point of view of the aspirant or the seeker of truth. From the absolute of paramaartha point of view there is no attainment of Brahman.

2.2.2. IDENTITY OF BRAHMAN AND AATMAN

From what has been said about the nature of Brahmaanubhava, so far, there arises the question, how, at all, can we know or have any kind of knowledge about this experience called Brahmaanubhava? No empirical means of knowledge (pramaana) can help us in this regard, except scriptural knowledge. Though scriptural knowledge is limited to the level of duality, still it provides knowledge about the reality of Brahman and enables us to have an intellectual understanding of Brahman.

Shankara holds the authority of the scriptural testimony in our intellectual understanding of Brahman. Nothing else on earth, except the scriptures, can reveal to us the nature of Brahman and of Brahmaanubhava. In this regard Shankara is very clear; he does not substitute any pramaana than the scriptural testimony, for the attainment of the intellectual knowledge about Brahman. He does make use of other pramaanas, but only to elucidate, clarify and demonstrate what he accepts on the basis of scriptural authority about Brahman and Brahmaanubhava. He says," The fact of everything having its self in Brahman cannot be grasped [intellectually], without the aid of scriptural passage"That art Thou'.[36]

The word 'upanishad' (scripture) derives its meaning from its capacity to lead to the truth those who, having been thoroughly dissatisfied with the things seen and unseen, seek liberation from ignorance, which is the source of bondage and suffering. The Upanishads are capable of accomplishing all these, for in them the highest end of life is embodied.[37]

Authentic human destiny: the paths of Shankara and Heidegger
Vensus A. George, Council for Research in Values & (August 1998), pp. 47-54

NOTES [1] The word 'Brahman' appears for the first time in the Rig Veda as related various sacred utterances, which were believed to have magical powers. So, initially it meant 'spell' or 'prayer', which can be used for the attainment of one's wishes and desires. In the Brahmanas, it began to signify that which stands behind God as their ground and basis. Finally, in the Upanishads, this terms came to stand for the unitary principle of all beings, the knowledge of which frees one from finitude. Cf. Eliot Deutsch, p. 9.
[2] Cf. BSB, I, i, 1, pp. 11-12.
[3] Ramkant A Sinari, p. 67.
[4] Swami Virswarananda (trans.), Brahma-Suutra (Mayavata, Almor, Himalayas: Advaita Ashrama, (1948), I, i, 2, p. 26 (hereafter: BSB, Virsawarananda).
[5] George Thibaut (trans.), Brahma-Sutras, vol. XXIV, Introduction, pp. xxiv-xxv (hereafter: BSB, Thibaut).
[6] S. Radhakrishnan (ed.), The Principal Upanishads (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953), p. 272.
[7] Ibid., p. 617.
[8] Cf. Paul Deussen, The System of Vedanta, trans. Charles Johnson (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co., 1912), pp. 211-212. Cf. also BUB, II, i, 20.
[9] S. Radhakrishnan and C. A. Moore (eds.), A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, 5th printing (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1973), p. 507. [10] In interpreting the Upanishadic text, Shankara is of the opinion that one must accept only those texts which speak of Brahman without qualities and forms. "But other texts speaking of Brahman with form", he says," have the injunctions about meditation as their main objectives. So long as they do not lead to some contradictions, their apparent meaning should be accepted. But, when they involve contradictions, the principle to be followed for deciding one or the other is that those that have the formless Brahman as their main purport are more authoritative than the others which have not that as their main purpose. It is according to this that one is driven to the conclusion that Brahman is formless and not its opposite." Cf. BSB, III, ii, 14, p. 612.
[11]"Brihadaaranayaka Upanishad", IV, v, 13, R. E. Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, 2nd revised ed. (New York: Princeton University Press, 1973), p. 147 (hereafter: BU., Hume).
[12] Cf. BSB, III, ii, 16, pp. 615-617.
[13] CF. ibid., III, ii, 18-20, pp. 615-617.
[14] Baskali asked Bhava three times about the nature of Brahman. The latter remained silent all three times, but finally he replied," I have already spoken, but you cannot comprehend that the self is silence." ibid., III, ii, 17, p. 614.
[15] Cf. Eliot Detsch, p. 9.
[16] Cf. BSB, I, i, 1, p. 12.
[17] Cf. ibid., II, iii, 7, p. 455.
[18] Cf. ibid., p. 456.
[19] Ibid., p. 457.
[20] Organ Troy Wilson, The Self in Indian Philosophy (London: Mounton & Co., 1964), p. 104.
[21] Cf. AB, p. 118.
[22] Ibid., p. 133.
[23] Cf. ibid., p. 136, Cf. Mahendranath Sircar, The System of Vedaantic Thought and Culture, pp. 156-157.
[24] Cf. ibid., pp. 136-137.
[25] Cf. ibid., pp. 137-138.
[26] BU., III, viii, 1, Hume, p. 118.
[27]"Chaanduukhya Upanishad", V, ix, 1, Hume, p. 234 (hereafter: Ch. U., Hume).
[28] Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads (New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1996), pp. 86-87.
[29] Radhakrishnan S., Indian Philosophy, vol. II, p. 513.
[30] BUB, VI, v, 6, pp. 500-501.
[31] Shankara, Gaudapaadakaarika Bhaasya and Maanduukya Upanishad Bhaasya, trans. Swami Nihilananda (Mysore: Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, 1955), IV, 85 (hereafter: GKB).
[32] VC, p. 65.
[33] Ibid., p. 89.
[34] Shankara, Upadeshasaahasrii, trans. Swami Jagadaananda, 6th ed. (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1979), II, xvi, 70, p. 189 (hereafter: UI).
[35] BSB, IV, i, 2, p. 815.
[36] Ibid., I, i, 2, p. 815.
[37] Cf. A. Ramamuarthi, p. 116.


"Self-realization involves an identity-experience, wherein one realizes his oneness with the ultimate Brahman"

Vensus A. George, Self-realization
"4.1.2. Incommunicability of Self-realization

The self-realization involves an identity-experience, wherein one realizes his oneness with the ultimate Brahman. Therefore, self- realization is of the nature of Brahman, i.e., without subject-object duality, eternal and uncaused, immediate and direct, besides being incomprehensible, indescribable and trans-empirical. Brahmaanubhava is not available to the empirical experience, as the scope of the former goes far beyond that of the latter. The words and languages we use refer to the phenomenal world and relative realities. As Brahman is beyond the phenomenal, Brhamaamubhava cannot be described in ordinary language. Therefore, one can speak of self-realization only by way of negation, by denying the qualities of the empirical experience superimposed on it. For instance, the qualities that are attributed to Brahman, such as reality (satyam), knowledge (jnaanam) and infinitude (aanandam) are not positive descriptions of Brahman, but are mere negations of qualities superimposed on Brahman, such as unreality, ignorance and finitude. Thus, all statements we make about Brahman, Brahmaamubhava and Brahmajnaani are mere approximations in the light of the phenomenal knowledge. Such a philosophical position makes self-realization, for all practical purposes, incommunicable. Since, Brahmaanbhava is unknowable and indescribable, it cannot be communicated by the Brahmajnaani to any one in the realm of phenomenal existence. Since Brahman-experience cannot be passed on to the other in any form of communication, it would always remain the subjective experience of the Brahmajnaani. Any attempt to communicate it, using phenomenal language, would be nothing else but a mere phenomenal approximation of the transcendental experience. Such approximations would never take one to the core of self-realization, as it is incommunicable.

4.1.3. Insignificance of the Other's Role in Brahmaajijnaasa

Shankarite path to self-realization, viz., the movement from ignorance to knowledge, is a way that is basically walked by the aspirant alone. The only involvement of the other, on the aspirant's effort to attain the goal of Brahmaanubhava, is the Guru. He is a detached guide, who helps the student to understand the true import of the Vedaantic statements, especially at the hearing (sravana) state of Brahmaajijnaasa. The relationship that exists between the aspirant and the Guru is that of a teacher and a student. In this relationship, the aspirant is totally obedient to the Guru, does personal service to him, looks after the daily chores in the ashram and listens to the teachings of the Guru by sitting at his feet. It is not a one to one, I ' Thou relationship, in which one enters into the life of the other as an equal partner. Other than the teacher, the aspirant does not have any significant relationship with any other person. This is clear from what the aspirant does in the three stages of Brahmaajijnaasa, viz., sravana, manaana and nididhyaasana. In these three stages of Brahmaajijnaasa the aspirant firstly, hears the instructions of the teacher personally. Secondly he reflects on the content of the Guru's teachings in solitude, so as to remove the apparent contradictions and to be intellectually convinced of the true import of the scriptural aphorisms. Thirdly, he meditates in silence on the truths he achieved through hearing and reflection. The various stages of Brahmaajijnaasa in the jnaana path are so centered on the individual seeker and his personal effort the presence of the other in the process is seen as an interference that would distract him from the goal of self-realization. So the seeker is basically all alone through out the process of Brahmaajijnaasa. Even after the seeker has attained self-realization, he does not need to have any relationship with the other or to a community of others, because all such relationships would be irrelevant and unreal to the Brahmajnaani. Thus, Shankara's path to self-realization does not give any significance to the I-Thou relationship that is genuine and inter- subjective communion of hearts between human persons...

From what has been said, it is clear that Shankara by his doctrine of Brahmaanubhava and the self's absolute oneness with Brahman, does not speak of a dissolution of the world. At the attainment of Brahmaanubhava, the external world is not destroyed or annihilated. But, the Brahmajnaani views the world no longer from the phenomenal point of view. He sees everything in terms of oneness, which is characteristic of Brahmaanubhava. Thus, from the point of view of the liberated man the phenomenal world is real in the relative sense, because the state he is in, i.e., his absolute identity with Brahman is that which is really real. As long as one tries to understand Shankara's Advaita philosophy purely from the phenomenal point of view, he will always meet with contradictions, for what is absolutely true is the transcendental and trans-empirical.

4.2.2. Advaita Vedaanta as Pantheism

Many consider Advaita Vedaanta to be pantheistic, because self- realization consists in the identity of the self and Brahman. Those who hold this view cite the mahaavaakya athat art Thou' in their support.9 In interpreting the above mentioned Vedaantic aphorism, we say that it cannot be interpreted in the direct meaning of athat' and 'Thou', viz., Iishvara and jiiva, since such a union between the supreme Lord and the limited soul is not possible. It its implied meaning athat' refers to Brahman and athou' refers to Aatman. Brahman is the absolute and eternal reality in the universe and Aatman is the pure consciousness, the eternal reality behind the individual self. Brahman and Aatman are eternally identical. In Brahmaanubhava, as we know, there is not experiencer and the experienced. What really happens in Brahmaanubhava is that the self, removed of all ignorance and its effects, realizes its eternal identity with Brahman. Thus, Brahmaanubhava cannot be considered as involving an identity between supreme Lord and the soul. Besides, the terms, 'union' and 'identity', are used figuratively because there is not new identity reached in Brahmaanubhava, but only the existing eternal identity between Brahman and Aatman is realized. Again there is no notion of God (as a theist would understand) in Shankara's thought. He does not consider Brahman as a deity to be worshipped or to be devoted to, but as the absolute ontological reality behind all the phenomena, which is identical with the self, the pure consciousness. So, for Shankara Brahman is not to be worshipped, but to be realized. If Brahman is viewed as a deity to be worshipped, and such a deity is seen as being identical with everything in the universe, then we have a pantheistic world-view. Since Shankara does not consider Brahman as deity who is identical with the universe, it seems clear that in Shankara's Advaita there is no trace of pantheism. Advaita goes beyond the distinction of theism, atheism and pantheism, as the question of God is not at all an issue in Advaita Vedaanta. Therefore, Shankarite thought does not involve any form of 'isms' that views the absolute reality in terms of Godhead. But rather it is a mystical philosophy that aims at making everyone aware of his true ontological nature, i.e., Brahman and move towards attaining it."

Vensus A. George, Self-realization (Brahmaanubhava)
Council for Research in Values & (January 2001), pp. 23-31


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