Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Sloka 24

Isha Jeevayoh Vesha Dhee bhidaah
Sat Svabhaavatah Vasthu Kevalam

Word meaning
Isha Jeevayoh – Between Jeeva and Ishwarah
Vesha Dhee Bhidhaa – there is difference only with respect to body and intellect (gross and subtle body).
Sat Svabhaavatah – But by their true nature (essential nature)
Vasthu Kevalam – absolute reality alone is.

Sloka meaning
Between Jeeva (the individual) and Ishwara (the Lord or creator), there is difference only with respect to body and intellect (gross and subtle body). By their true and essential nature, absolute reality alone is (meaning by their essence both are Consciousness alone).

Jeeva and Ishwara are two very important terms used in Vedanta and which we all are very familiar with also. These two terms requires a little deep analysis to know what these terms mean.

These two terms are valid only from the perspective of the ignorant and initial seeker. For the realized Self, there is nothing but Brahman alone. This is the ultimate reality that there is nothing but Brahman or Consciousness alone. The world is a mere illusion seen in Brahman or Consciousness. As all illusions are the reality alone, similarly the world full of names and forms are Brahman alone (wrongly perceived as the world).

Let’s first analyze Brahman and the world.

Drik Drishya viveka and Saraswathi Rahasya Upanishad says
Asthi Bhaathi Priyam roopam Naamam cha ithi amsa Panchakam
Adhya trayam brahma ropam jagad roopah tatho dvayam

Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Name and Form – these are the five characteristics of any object. The first three are the nature of Brahman and the rest two are the nature of World.

The world is only name and form of Brahman

Sristhir naama brahma roope sachidananda vasthuni
Abdau Phenaadivat sarva naama ropa prasaarana

That is called Creation where names and forms are created in Brahman of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss even as foams and bubbles are created in ocean.

The foams, bubbles, waves are not different from the ocean – they are all the same water itself in essence. Thus, they might seem to be different but essentially they are one and the same only. Similarly the world is only name and form of Brahman and hence not different from Brahman. Due to ignorance of the essential reality of the world, the world seems to be different from Brahman or Consciousness. But essentially world is Brahman only. When the names and forms which are only mere illusions that seem to be present now, were not present in the past & will vanish in the future, are removed – only pure Consciousness remains. This is the reality of the world.

Knowing this concept of world as name and form (which is only an illusion and hence unreal) of Brahman will help us in understanding the concepts of Jeeva and Ishwara.

Ishwara is endowed with the qualities of Sarvajnatvam (all-knowing) and Sarvavyaapakatvam (all-pervasive)
Jeeva is endowed with the qualities of Alpajnaatvam and Alpavyaapakatvam (limited-knowing and limited pervasiveness)

Ishwara is considered as the reflection of Brahman in Maya – whereas Jeeva is the reflection of Brahman in Avidya. Maya is the totality whereas Avidya is the individuality. Therefore, the totality of Jeeva leads one to Ishwara.

Jeeva can be translated into Ego or Ahamkaara and is Brahman limited by a single body and mind. Ishwara is Brahman limited by the qualities of total-mind and total-body. Ishwara is the ruler or controller of the total number of jeevas.

There are as many jeevas as the number of adjunctions of body and mind. But there is only one Ishwara who is the controller of all these Jeevas.

Thereby, Jeeva is in bondage of Maya and its power whereas Ishwara is the controller of Maya who through his own Maya Shakthi creates the world from himself and creates the various Jeevas. Thus, Ishwara is ever-liberated and out of the control of Maya – but still he is not the ultimate reality of Brahman (as he is endowed with qualities of creation and controller of Maya).

Jeeva finds himself having limited knowledge because of the limitation of body, mind and intellect. As we all know, knowledge is based on intellect alone. Since Jeeva has a limited intellect, thereby he knows little only. Also as he has a limited body, he is not all-pervasive. But once the Jeeva realizes his own oneness with Ishwara – thereby the limitations of body and intellect are broken. When this happens, Jeeva loses his status of Ego (as identification with the mind and body are called Ego) and thus he merges into his source of Self or Consciousness or Brahman. When the limitations are increased and the Jeeva identifies himself with the totality of bodies and minds, he becomes one with Ishwara and thereby he gets all-knowing and all-pervasive qualities of Ishwara. This is how great Mahatmas propound all the truth and knowledge in the world even though they are seen to be limited to a single body. Many acharyas ranging from Sankara, Ramanuja and others have proclaimed the reality of the world like Ishwara himself as they increased their limitations and merged into one with Ishwara – the totality of all individuality.

But, when the status of totality also vanishes into its source of Brahman, there remains nothing but pure Consciousness. There nothing remains to be known apart from the knower (as there is no dual object to be known), nothing remains to be pervaded as pervasiveness is there only if there are two things). This is the ultimate and essential nature of Ishwara – Consciousness, Brahman or Atman.

When we now analyze into the essential nature of Jeeva and Ishwarah – we find that the difference is not in the essential nature of both which is Consciousness alone, but the difference lies in the adjunctions which are the body and the mind.

There are two adjunctions present for jeeva and ishwara which Maharshi says here as Vesha and dhee – these are the gross body and subtle body. The gross body consists of the physical body consisting of the Saptha Dhathus of Skin, Flesh, Marrow, Bone, Blood, Fat and Semen and made up of the five gross elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The subtle body consists of the 17 parts of five sense organs of action, five sense organs of perception, five vital forces (Pancha Prana – prana, apana, vyana, samana, udana), the mind and the intellect (in some places subtle body is said to contain 19 parts which includes the 17 mentioned above and Ego and chitta or memory).

The individual jeeva is endowed with only a single gross and subtle body whereas the Ishwara has all the individual gross and subtle bodies (all put together).

It has to be remembered that there is one and only one reality which is Consciousness or the Self. This Consciousness when limited by various adjuncts seems to get limited by the adjunctions but in reality it is the same Consciousness alone, unaffected by the adjunctions. Space seems to be limited by a pot and it seems to be different from pot-space but the pot-space is same as infinite space only. Similarly the essence of Jeeva and Ishwara are Consciousness alone.

They seem to be different due to the different adjunctions and due to the reflection of Brahman in different objects.

But in essential nature, both Ishwara and Jeeva are Brahman or Consciousness alone. Ishwara and Jeeva are only illusions created due to the illusory adjunctions of body, mind and intellect. Any illusion is the reality alone perceived wrongly. When the reality is known, the illusion vanishes and the person realizes that there never was any illusion in the reality.

One may now ask “How can I, the jeeva, be same as Ishwara, the creator?”.
Yes, the Jeeva is one with Ishwara. Doesn’t the jeeva create a world in the waking state??? So, doesn’t jeeva become a creator in one of the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep.

Kaivalya Upanishad speaks about Jeeva and its essential nature also
Puratraye kreedathi yah cha jeevah tatah tu jaatam sakalam vichitram
Aadhaaram aanandam akhanda bodham yasmin layam yaathi puratrayam cha

That Jeeva who is the individual and who plays in the three states (meaning who is the enjoyer of the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep) is the creator of all the objects and things in these three states. The substratum or essence of the Jeeva (Aadharam means substratum) is infinite and blissful Consciousness (Bodham means Consciousness) in whom the three states (which are termed as puras or towns or houses as the jeeva enters each house and yet remains unattached to them really) and the jeeva or individual merge.

Here jeeva is created from the Consciousness, has the nature of Consciousness and merges into Consciousness. This only means that jeeva is an illusion in Consciousness. Thus, here jeeva is termed the creator of the worlds in waking and dream state.

Thus, Jeeva and Ishwara seem to be different based on the limitations (which doesn’t affect the essential nature of both of them) of body and mind.

Swami Tejomayananda in his commentary on Upadesa Saram gives the example of ocean and waves to explain Jeeva and Ishwara. In essence ocean and waves are water only. Ocean is total of all the waves. The ocean is Ishwara, the waves are Jeeva. When the Jeeva lose their individuality, they become total and merge into Ishwara as waves merge into the ocean. And the essence of both jeeva and Ishwara is water alone.

Therefore, Maharshi asserts in this sloka that there is only empirical or relative difference between Jeeva and Ishwara based on the adjunction of body and mind. There is no absolute difference between both as both are Consciousness or Brahman or Self in essence.

Maharshi in the next sloka mentions how a person can realize the Self and once again asserts that the difference between the individual and total is only relative and not absolute.

Just to mention here, various Advaitic post-Sankara acharyas interpret Jeeva and Ishwara based on Sruthi statements. There are mainly two descriptions of Ishwara and Jeeva mentioned by two great post-Sankara acharyas (which form two post-Sankara schools of Advaita). Vachaspathi Mishra who wrote the famous Bhamathi commentary to Sankaracharya’s Brahma Sutra Sareerika Mimamsa bhashya says that the Ishwara is Brahman limited by Maya and Jeeva is Brahman limited by the intellect. This theory of Jeeva which is Brahman limited by intellect is termed as Avachcheda vaada (avachheda means limitation).

Prakasaatman yathi who wrote the famous Panchapaadika Vivarana (a gloss to the commentary of Padmapada Acharya called Panchapadika on Sankara’s commentary to the first four sutras of Brahma Sutra) says that Ishwara is Brahman reflected in Maya whereas Jeeva is Brahman reflected in the intellect. Thus, jeeva becomes the Kartha and Bhokta but that Brahman which remains as the Sakshi or witness to these activities and which is object that is reflection in the mind and the reflection becomes jeeva – this Sakshi is termed as Kutastha (that which remains like the anvil or Kuta meaning changless). The Sakshi or Kutastha is related to Brahman by the Avachheda Vaada (limitation theory). When the jeeva vanishes, Kutastha realizes his own oneness with Brahman. The example for this is: Brahman is the infinite space, kutastha is the pot-space and jeeva is the pot-space reflected in water in the pot. When the pot is destroyed, pot-space becomes one with Brahman – in reality the pot-space and infinite-space are both same but seem to be different due to the adjunction of pot). Jeeva is only the reflection which vanishes when the mind where it is reflected is removed or destroyed through destruction of thoughts.

Thus, analyzing these above two theories – both are very much similar and a person should not concentrate on these things in detail as these will only lead to problem and confusions which will lead one to not knowing the reality or essence of both.

One needs to realize that whether Jeeva is limited, still the Jeeva is Brahman alone in nature. If Jeeva is reflection, still the reflection has no reality apart from the object of reflection, Brahman. Therefore, in both these theories the essence of both Jeeva and Ishwara is Consciousness alone. Both these theories say that when body and mind are destroyed, the essential nature of non-dual Brahman is realized.

Thus, Hastamalaka (one of the four disciples of Sankara) says in Hastamalakeeyam
Mukhaabhasako darpane drishyamaanah
Mukhatvaat prithaktvena naivaasthi vasthu
Chidaabhasakho dheeshu jeevopi tadvat
Sa Nityopalabdhi svarupohamatma

As the reflection of one’s face in a mirror has no existence apart from the face, similarly the jeeva which is reflection of Brahman in intellect has no separate existence apart from Brahman – that ever-present Brahman or Consciousness I am.

Here one needs to concentrate on the part where Hastamalaka says that the reflection has no existence apart from the object (similarly the limited object doesn’t have any existence apart from the real unlimited object).

Thus, both the theories of limitation and reflection are one and the same (with minor difference at the empirical level) and both tell that the essential and absolute reality of Jeeva and Ishwara is Consciousness or Brahman alone.

The confusion of whether jeeva is prathibimbitha (reflected) or Avachheda (limited) continued for sometime after Sankara (Sankara never spent time on this issue as it was immaterial whether the illusory jeeva is reflection or limitation because nothing is to be achieved by knowing the illusory jeeva who the real “I” is not. Hence he proclaimed both these theories at different works and stressed that YOU ARE CONSCIOUSNESS and hence Jeeva is Brahman alone whether it be reflection or limitation) until Appayya Dikshitar explained both these theories in his Siddhantha Lesha Sangraha where he mentions that both are almost same and there is no fight between both theories where only the approach to the reality is different & not the reality. Dikshitar had to mention this because the rival schools of Vedanta started criticizing these various theories and differences in the very same Sankara’s works. They also started telling that Sankara’s theory is absurd and Sankara never bothered to remove the absurdities in his system.

Maharshi thus in this sloka and the next mentions the ultimate reality that Ishwara and Jeeva are not separate entities but they are essentially the same – they seem different only for the ignorant and for the realized, there is no difference but only the non-dual Self.


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