Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Sloka 8

Bheda bhaavanaath soham ithyasau
Bhavana abhidha paavani mataa

Word meaning
Bheda bhavanaath – Better than the thought of a God different from oneself
Soham ithi asau – the thought that “I am He or I am God”,
Bhavana abhidhaa – which has no differences in it
Paavani mataa – is sacred and preferred.

Sloka meaning
Better than the thought or Bhavaana of a God different from oneself, the thought that “I am He” which has no differences is superior, sacred and preferred.

Maharshi here, in this sloka, stresses the importance of Para Bhakthi as compared to Apara Bhakthi.

There are mainly two types of Bhakthi. One is the lower devotion or Apara Bhakthi where the difference between God and the devotee exists. Here, the devotee assumes or is devoted to a God different from oneself. He thinks himself as not united or one with God but different from God.

This duality or difference perception can not lead to eternal bliss. This duality is not the absolute reality. The absolute or ultimate reality can never be relative and it must be beyond all relativities, beyond all differences, beyond time-space-causation. Such a reality, therefore, can not be realized through dual thought. As long as a devotee thinks himself as separate from God, the difference always exists. This difference obstructs the ultimate reality and eternal bliss of the Self to be realized.

The very experience of deep sleep speaks about this obstruction and the realization of the Self. In the waking and dream world, there are dualities and hence the eternal bliss is not experienced. The happiness that a person experiences in these two states are very limited and full of sorrow alone. But in the deep sleep state, there is no duality perception and hence bliss is experienced throughout the state. There is not even a single tint of sorrow in the deep sleep state.

The Upanishads say that liberation is similar to deep sleep. In liberation also, there is no duality and all dual perceptions vanish. After realization, the ultimate reality that there is only ONE Truth which is of the nature of Absolute Existence, Consciousness and Bliss is realized and experienced. And this state is full of bliss alone and without any duality. Similarly, the state of deep sleep is also a state where happiness is fully experienced and there is no duality in this state also. The only difference between state of deep sleep and liberation is that in deep sleep, there is ignorance and hence one is not aware of the bliss in that state & is aware only after waking up. But in liberation or realization, there is complete awareness and a person is fully aware or conscious only when he is realized.

It is interesting to note here that realization is not something new to be gained but some wrong notions about one’s own nature and ignorance to be lost. These obstruct one’s own real nature of Self which ever-realized.

The ultimate reality is not dualistic truth – but it is the non-dual Brahman or non-dual God or non-dual Self which is the substratum for whatever is being seen in this seemingly existing world. It is that which sustains all the objects, desires, thoughts in the illusory world and the various states of waking, dream and deep sleep.

Hence, the ultimate reality can not be known if God is considered as separate from oneself. Unless this differentiation vanishes, completeness and contentment are not experienced. And in such a state of differentiation, perfectness and infinitude is not experienced – only in such perfect and FULL state, there can eternal and ever lasting bliss which is the very nature of God.

And God is being defined in the scriptures as that from which this illusory world has come, that in which this illusory world exists, that unto which this illusory world merges into. This theory, if deeply analyzed, will show that there can be no duality whatsoever from that God. The God who is full and complete can not have any parts – as that which has parts is subject to changes and therefore death also. But the God of the Upanishads, the Brahman is without any birth or death – therefore God is without any parts.

As God is complete and full, never can any objects appear or come from God. Things can come from God only if God desires – if God desires, then his very nature of completeness or Fullness vanishes. Hence, God cannot desire anything and cannot perform any actions – therefore nothing can come from God.

Also such a full and complete God has to be non-dual alone. If there is something different from such a God, then it again comes into the theory of relativity and we have to assume another GOD which is absolute and on whom the two things of relative God and the different objects depend upon. Again, we will be lead to the same conclusion that such an absolute God has to be non-dual and without any changes & hence there cannot be born any relative God from the absolute.

Now, one may ask then who am I????
The scriptures again and again proclaim that the Self or Consciousness or “I” is the same with Brahman or God. It is not different from God because there cannot be any differences external or internal to God – and hence God has to be non-dual alone.

Each person’s experience shows that it is the Consciousness or “I” that remains the same amidst the changing views, changing objects, changing stages in the life, changing states and all. Therefore this “I” is absolute and not relative. It exists without any external or internal dependencies. The “I” never requires any external God or Brahman for its existence. But the external God or Brahman has existence only because of the Consciousness or “I”. This is very well experienced by each person in deep sleep where there is neither any God nor Brahman, but only the pure “I” exists.

Therefore, this now takes us to just two absolute things of Consciousness or “I” and God or Brahman. Now a person with little understanding or reason will realize that there can never be two absolute things. And when a person analyzes these two things deeply, he realizes that they are not different from one another but the same only. Therefore the ultimate reality is that “I am God, I am Brahman of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss – I am the non-dual Self, one without a second”.

This ultimate reality or Knowledge about one’s own nature is called Para Bhakthi. This para Bhakthi can be realized only when a person contemplates and realizes that “I am God” – until then, he may be a great devotee of God and might even talk with God daily (like the great saints of Alwars and saivite saints and sankaracharyaas of kanchi and other maths), but still he has not realized his real nature.

This great ultimate reality is very well known through Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s very life itself. Ramakrishna was so attracted to the form of Kali and he refused to accept Brahman as the ultimate and non-dual reality even after his Guru Tota puri told him so. Thereafter, Tota puri instructed Ramakrishna to imagine a mirror in between his eyebrows and see the form of Kali in that mirror. Ramakrishna did so. Then suddenly the mirror broke due to Tota Puri’s yogic action and Ramakrishna saw the infinite Brahman pervading all over the universe – he realized the non-dual reality at that moment.

Hence, a person should always remember this ultimate reality even while following any path towards it. This ultimate goal of realizing one’s own non-dual nature has to be remembered even while one follows any path. If this is not followed, then a person gets stuck in the path and he is a fool who considers the path as the goal instead of trying to realize or achieve the goal.

Keeping all these thoughts in mind and for the welfare of the society – Maharshi explains that the thought or devotion which is devoid of any differences of devotee, object of devotion and act of devotion is superior to devotion where there is difference between God and the devotee.

The scriptures proclaim this practice or path of SOHAM or I am He through which a person realizes one’s own real nature of God or Self.

The word SOHAM – or SAH AHAM – means “I am HE”. Through this form of devotion wherein the devotee contemplates that he is God – he conquers the dualities completely and therefore overcomes ignorance and realizes his own real nature of non-dual Bliss, non-dual God and non-dual Self.

Now a person might object here by saying that is there any scriptural proof that devotion must terminate in non-dual knowledge???
Yes, scriptures do proclaim this alone.

Sri Krishna says in Gita Chapter 18 (the sloka that most of the people know)
“Sarva Dharmaan Parityajya maam ekam saranam vraja” – Renouncing all dharma, take refuge in Me alone.

Here dharma indicates everything in this world – it indicates the changeful nature of the world which is NAMES and FORMS. When the NAMES and FORMS are renounced and refuge is taken in ME or Krishna as the ultimate reality – there remains nothing but non-dual Self or Brahman alone. This non-dual Self or Consciousness can have no name because NAMES and FORMS have been renounced and this is beyond any dualities.

For Eg: when the names and forms of sea, bubbles, waves are renounced what remains is non-dual WATER alone (here non-duality is only with respect to those objects and this example serves only to prove that when names and forms are renounced, the reality alone exists, one without a second).

Krishna again mentions this in lot of places in Gita. Krishna says to Uddhava in Uddhava Gita
“Pumso ayuktasya naanaartho bramah” – The duality born out of the intellect and perception of a man (whose mind is incomplete and imperfect and not steadfast) is illusory only.

In the very famous Gopika Gitam which is considered as a book about Bhakthi, Gopis say
“Na Khalu gopikaa nandhano bhavaan
Akhila dehinaam antaraatma drik”

O Krishna! You are not the son on Nandha but you are the in dweller or Self in all beings.

The Self in all beings indicates the substratum for all the bodies – this substratum can never be multiple – Self or Consciousness can never be multiple as the very nature of Consciousness is that it is the Subject. Such a subject can never be multiple as this multiplicity would only lead to different Subjects. If there are multiple Subjects, then each Subject would become an object of the other Subjects. Therefore a Subject would become both a Subject and Object – this is illogical and not possible also. Therefore Consciousness is ONE ALONE.

Therefore, this Consciousness or God is not different from oneself. The devotion wherein the devotee considers himself as God and contemplates on the reality that “I am God” is higher and directly leads one to realization. This is Para Bhakthi as defined by the various works of Bhakthi literature.

There are various works which define Bhakthi and are considered as Bhakthi Literature. One is the Bhagavad Gita wherein in Chapter 12 Bhakthi is completely dealt with. Another is the great scripture of Bhagvatham where Para Bhakthi or Knowledge is talked about (Bhagavatham itself in the end describes that Knowledge about the reality between Self and Brahman or God is the very aim of Bhagavatham – this non-dual reality is Para Bhakthi).

These works deal with other topics also.

There are mainly two Sutras which speak only about Bhakthi. Those are
Narada Bhakthi Sutras – the sutras on devotion ascribed to Narada (as the author)
Sandhilya Bhakthi Sutras – the sutras or aphorisms on devotion whose authorship is ascribed to Sage Shandhilya.

Amongst these two works, Narada Bhakthi Sutra is given prime importance and widely read because of the practical and experiential aspect of devotion being talked about in the book. Also, since Narada is considered as the very embodiment of Bhakthi in various scriptures.

Let us now try to see a few of the Sutras from Narada Bhakthi Sutras.

The first sutra says “Athaatho bhaktim vyakyaasyaamah” – Now bhakthi is going to be expounded.
The second sutra says “Sa Tu Asmin Parama Prena Roopa – Bhakthi is of the nature of Supreme Love to God (it is interesting to note the word Asmin which means in this or here & hence can be meant to represent God not different from the Self).

The third sutra says “Amrita svaroopa cha” – Bhakthi is also of the nature of eternality or immortality. Eternality can happen only when the Self is realized – only when one’s own real nature of unborn ever-existing non-dual Consciousness is realized.

The fourth sutra says “Yad labdhva pumaan sidhdho bhavathi, amrito bhavathi, tripto bhavathi”
Having attained which (the highest devotion), a man becomes perfect, eternal and content – as explained, contentment and perfection can be achieved only when there is nothing different from oneself & hence here the Bhakthi or Supreme God mentioned is non-dual and the same as the Self.

The fifth sutra says “Yad praapya na kinchit vaanchasi, na shochathi, na dvesthi, na ramathe, na utsaahi bhavathi”.
After attaining which, a person never craves for anything else, doesn’t get sad, doesn’t get angry or excited or interested in selfish motives.

This non-craving can happen only through realization and not through attainment. Anything attained is limited by time and space and hence it is subject to death and perish. Such a thing can never give contentment or non-craving. Therefore it is one’s own real nature of Self or Consciousness of God which makes a person non-craving and fully content. Here attaining is mentioned because now a person has forgotten his own real nature & hence from the ignorance perspective (which in itself is an illusion alone) a person attains the Self or God.

The sixth sutra also tells about this higher devotion “Yad jnaatva mattho bhavthi, sthabdho bhavthi, atmaaraamo bhavathi”
Having known which, a person becomes intoxicated, fascinated and continuously establishes himself in the Self rejoicing in the bliss of the Self.

These sutras or aphorisms clearly bring out the reality about one’s own nature as not different from Brahman or God.

There might be people who might interpret the very words in the sutras to mean differences and not non-difference. But the scriptures clearly mention and experience also tells that such people can never be content or complete. Maharshi also mentions the same in this sloka and the words of Maharshi are not merely intellectual but from his very experience (this can very well be known through his very life history).

Thus, a person becomes perfect and rejoices in the eternal bliss of the Self only by realizing the Self or one’s own nature which is the same as Bhakthi or Jnaana.
Let us all try to implement this Para Bhakthi of contemplating that “I am the God, the God is Me, God is not different from Me, what is being seen as this individual Self is God alone” & thereby realize the abundant inherent bliss of the Self.


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