Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Sloka 9

Bhaava soonya sad bhaava susthithih
Bhaavana bhalaath bhakthih uttama

Word meaning
Bhaava soonya – A state of voidness
Sad Bhaava susthithih – when a person is established in the Self or Existence
Bhavana Bhalaath – is achieved through practice
Bhakthih uttama – is the highest Bhakthi.

Sloka meaning
A state of voidness, when a person is established in the Self or Existence, is achieved through practice alone & is the highest devotion.

Maharshi here speaks about the higher devotion or Para Bhakthi and the means to attain it.

As explained earlier, there are two types of devotion. One is Apara Bhakthi where there is the differentiation between the devotee and God or the object of devotion. But in Para Bhakthi, this differentiation vanishes and only pure Consciousness or the Self exists.

In the state of realization, there is no duality and differences – there is only one Consciousness, one without a second. There is nothing other than Consciousness in that state. This ultimate state of realization is known by different names in different philosophies. This ultimate reality is termed as Atman, Brahman, God, Samadhi and all in different philosophies.

The ancient Rig Veda tells “Ekam Sad Vipra bahuda vadanthi” – One Truth is spoken of in different ways by different people.

And hence the very same nature of the Self and the state of realization is named variously. When a person becomes completely immersed in God, there remains no difference between the devotee and the God. At that time, there is only pure Existence and nothing else. This state of non-duality is called Para Bhakthi or Jnaana or Brahman or the Self. This is what Maharshi is explaining in this sloka.

Apara Bhakthi or devotion where there is differentiation between the devotee and God is not the ultimate state. This devotion just is a means to purification of mind and gaining of concentration. This lower devotion is just a path to the ultimate state of Supreme devotion where there is only ONE and no duality.

Wherever there is duality, there is prone to be likes and dislikes. When a person sees two things (different things), it is obvious that he will like one thing better than the other. This liking might again lead to disliking of the second thing. These likes and dislikes causes desire or attachment and anger or aversion. The desire and anger cause a person to enjoy happiness and sorrow continuously. It is the end of duality or perception of duality that leads one to eternal bliss of the Self. As long as a person sees duality, there is happiness and sorrow waiting to pounce upon the person.

Thus, the sufferings in the world can be said to caused by DUAL PERCEPTION alone.

Again, now one may ask “Will non-duality or ceasing of dual perception lead one to eternal bliss”???
Yes, it will. This is not only affirmed in the Sruthi and confirmed by logic – but each person’s experience also tells the same.

During the state of waking and dream, a person always perceives duality and hence he enjoys happiness and sorrow. But during deep sleep, where no duality is perceived, the person completely rejoices in the eternal bliss of the Self. This is the reason why even a beggar and a millionaire both want to sleep daily and after waking up proclaim the same words “I slept well”. This shows dual perception is the cause of all sorrows.

Even in this state of waking, a person can rejoice in the eternal bliss of the Self – if dual perception ceases. This is why when a person hears to beautiful music, he gets happiness (without any conditioning) from it – this happiness is got because temporarily the dual perception vanishes and the person is in harmony with the music. This harmony only means that there is duality perceived between the music that is heard and one’s individual character. Similar is the case with all material pleasures. At the time of enjoying any pleasures, the difference or duality is temporarily forgotten and hence the eternal bliss of the Self is experienced.

The Upanishads proclaim that since this happiness is only due to temporary ceasing of duality – it is just a small part of the eternal bliss of the Self. But one has to remember that whatever happiness one gets from worldly things, that too has to be from the Self alone and not from any external objects.

If external objects were to give happiness – then their very sight would give happiness to each person. But we see that some people get happiness by listening to classical music whereas some people get happiness listening to western music. There are people who get angry when they listen to the same classical or western music. Therefore, happiness is not in the objects or the music, but it is in the Subject or the individual alone.

When the individual loses his individuality and is in harmony with the surrounding or the objects, he rejoices in the happiness got from the Self. Therefore, one can conclude that happiness or bliss is rejoiced only when dual perception vanishes.

Now comes the real question of whether dual perception is real or unreal????
Vedanta proclaims that dual perception is not real because if it is real – then it cannot vanish. Therefore it is only an illusion. The best example for the illusory nature of dual perception is the dream world. The dream world has duality at the time when it is experienced. But when a person wakes up, he realizes that there was no duality at all – and the dual perception was only an illusion.

Now, any illusion must compulsorily have a substratum or a real thing. A little thought will tell a person that even when illusion is perceived, it is the reality that is being perceived. When a person mistakes a rope for a snake & he sees the illusory snake only – but even when he is seeing the snake, it is ROPE that is being perceived and not the snake.

Experience and logic tells that the duality in the world is unreal & it is the same Consciousness that is seen as the various objects in the world. The real state of objectlessness is the real state or natural state of the Self. When this natural state is realized, a person realizes that it is the Self that is being seen as the various objects & he realizes that there is nothing here but the Self alone. At that time, even though he might be seeing duality (as such), but he will be seeing the substratum of the duality which is the Self alone.

Therefore, dual perception is unreal & the duality that is being perceived is nothing but the non-dual Self only.

Now, let us try to analyze the meaning of the sloka.

There are two things that Maharshi tells about the state of higher devotion.
Void like state – this word of void has invoked lot of people to be confused that the reality is nothing or SOONYAM. But this is proved wrong because when a person says “there is nothing”, there must a person or the Consciousness to tell that there is nothing. Therefore, there can never be nothing but only Consciousness. Here, nothing or SOONYA indicates the absence of any external and internal objects or differences. The Subject or the Seer in this state perceives objects. Therefore, the Subject has no existence without the objects. But when the objects vanish as in deep sleep, the Subject exists in a state of objectlessness. This is the natural state of the Subject & this is the state of eternal bliss. This state of objectlessness and ONENESS is indicated by the word SOONYA or void.
the real nature of Existence – the Self is of the nature of Existence. The Self or Consciousness is the only thing which experiences that “I exist”. All other things are insentient matter alone which gain their existence from the Self or Consciousness. Therefore, here Maharshi here indicates the real nature of the Self as Existence. With the word SAT, Maharshi clears the doubt as to whether it is a state of SOONYAM or voidness. Since, IT exists, soonyam means that there is nothing different it existing.

Now, comes the question to how to attain or realize this real nature of the Self???
Maharshi says through “practice” or “contemplation”.

Each and every person is the Self alone or God alone. But this ultimate reality has been forgotten and veiled by ignorance. As the reality is veiled, other things are wrongly superimposed on the reality. These superimpositions can be removed only through negation of these. This negation is done through contemplation on the reality. When a person gets the clear intellectual conviction that everything is the Self only & I am the Self – the ignorance veil vanishes & thereby the real and nature state of the Self is realized.

This mental contemplation is what Maharshi explained in the previous sloka as “SOHAM” contemplation. SOHAM means “I am He or I am THAT”. With this contemplation, the devotee contemplates on the God as not different from himself but as one with himself. He contemplates on the thought that “I am GOD or the GOD is ME alone”. This contemplation slowly removes the difference between the devotee and God.

At that time, the devotee realizes that God is not different from myself but I am that GOD.

A person can easily understand that the God who is considered as the creator, protector and destructor cannot be different from the devotee. If everything has God as the substratum, then that God must be same as the devotee only. IF that God is different from the Self or the devotee – then it denies the omni-presence of God and the very fact of God being the substratum of this world. Therefore, by creating difference between God and himself, the devotee in turn kills Godness in God & therefore God himself is killed. This can never happen and is not at all possible. Therefore the devotee is not different from God.

This SOHAM is not just limited to the body or the mind – but this is to be applied to each and every object. The devotee needs to contemplate that “everything is God only & that God is Me only”. Only through this pooja of seeing everything as God, duality vanishes through constant contemplation. When duality vanishes, a state of voidness is experienced & the Consciousness or Self or God alone remains, one without a second.

This realization of the ultimate reality, one without a second is termed in Bhakthi Literatures as Para Bhakthi or Supreme Devotion.

It is interesting to note that Adi Sankara defines Bhakthi in a very similar way in Vivekachoodamani
“Moksha kaarana saamagrayaam bhaktireva gareeyasi
Sva sva roopa anusandhaanam bhaktirithi abhidheeyathe”
Of all the means to liberation, Devotion is the easiest.

Devotion is contemplation of one’s own real nature (which is Absolute Existence, Consciousness and Bliss).

Only when a person strives to follow Para Bhakthi and realizes it – he becomes a real devotee of the Lord. And Krishna says in Gita that such a devotee is Me only and not different from Me. Krishna again asserts that a devotee (following lower devotion) never perishes.

It doesn’t matter whether a person is following the path of Bhakthi or Jnaana or Karma – but the attitude is important. One has to constantly remember that removal of duality and likes and dislikes is what is to be achieved. This can be achieved only through seeing oneness everywhere & this is what is common in all the paths.
Maharshi concludes the Bhakthi Yoga in this sloka. Bhakthi Yoga is so vast that days and days can be spent talking about its characteristics and implementation. We will see the aspect of Para Bhakthi and its implementation tomorrow.


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