Discriminating between the Self and the non-Self
- By Swami Sivananda
Viveka is discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent, between the Self and the non-Self.
The door to the higher mind is flung open when there is an awakening of discrimination.There is an eternal, changeless principle (Brahman, Atman, Consciousness) amidst the ever-changing phenomena of this vast universe and the fleeting movements and oscillations of the mind.
The aspirant should separate himself also from the six waves of the ocean of Samsara - birth and death, hunger and thirst, and exhilaration and grief. Birth and death belong to the physical body; hunger and thirst belong to Prana; exhilaration and grief are the attributes of the mind. The Soul is unattached. The six waves cannot touch Brahman which is as subtle as the all-pervading ether.
Association with saints and study of Vedantic literature will infuse discrimination in man. Viveka should be developed to the maximum degree. One should be well established in it.
The following two chapters explain the nature of Brahman (the immortal source of mind, prana and body) and the nature of the five sheaths. This knowledge will help greatly the aspirant after liberation to develop his capacity to discriminate between the Self and the non-Self which and thus to recognize his true nature.
This knowledge can give positive results only if we study and reflect upon it thoroughly again and again and invesigate all these factors in us by continous enquiry and observtion. This is quite easy for one who has developed the necessary qualities such as control of senses and mind, purity of mind, dettachment and dispassion, one-pointed mind and a intense longing to realize the Truth but it is quite difficult for the rest.
The Nature of Brahman
1, 2. The Guru said: Salutation to Sat-Chit-Ananda Para-Brahman, that glorious first Preceptor, who is self-luminous, eternal indivisible, pure, spotless, desireless, attributeless, timeless, spaceless, changeless, beginningless and endless.
The greatest and the First Preceptor is the Ocean of Satchidananda. It is the Inner Reality or the central Being of all. The promptings of the innermost Light of the Self alone are responsible for the spiritual progress of the individual. Even seeking a Preceptor will be impossible if the Permanent Self within does not throw the discriminative Consciousness upon the individual or the Jiva. The proper grasping of the truths of Vedanta and the rapt contemplation on the Reality are the effects of the spiritual consciousness already existing in the aspirant in a potential condition. If not, none could communicate knowledge to another individual. The transmission of knowledge from one person to another presupposes the background of a universal consciousness that keeps beings in unison. This permanent verity is Satchidananda or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss which is therefore the Guru of all gurus, the Source of Light, Wisdom, Power and Bliss.
Satchidananda is self-luminous, for it is the very existence of eternal Consciousness. It is undivided, Akhanda-Ekarasa, for it is homogeneous and is without internal or external differentiation. There is no Swagata, Swajatiya or Vijatiya Bheda in Brahman or Satchidananda. It is One Mass of Brilliance and unblemished Grandeur of Divine Existence. It is pure because it is untainted by thought or objectification. It is untouched by the diversifying Prakriti and is desireless, for it is the Height of all Perfection. It is Bhuma or the Fullness of Life. It is attributeless for the positive and the negative natures react one another and get fused in it. It is spaceless and timeless, for space is a special mode of particularisation in Being and time is closely connected with space and Brahman or Satchidananda is without any particularisation whatsoever. Space and Time are individualised objectifications which are born of the self-limitation of a centre of consciousness. Hence the changeless Reality which is ever Self-satisfied is beginningless and endless, for Impartite Existence in the Wholeness of its character cannot have motion in Itself and is, therefore, an inexplicable Being which is hard even to imagine. That is the Truth of all truths, "Satyasya Satyam" or the Supreme Brahman of the Upanishads. That is the Goal of all quests. That is the object of Meditation. That is the Ideal to be attained by one and all. That is the Essence of Existence.
3, 4. That Ultimate Reality, which is the support for this world, body, Prana, mind and senses, which is the womb for the Vedas, which is all-pervading and all-permeating, which is colourless, odourless, tasteless, nameless and formless, that something shines eternally.
The Ultimate Reality is the support for the world even as the Sun is the support for the mirage. The world is the dazzling of Eternal Consciousness. The nihilists are wrong in saying that nothing exists at all. The world-phenomenon cannot be based on Nothing-less or Emptiness. An appearance demands a Reality as its corollary. The world is an expression of Brahman through Maya even as the body is an expression of Atman through mind. The Prana, the mind and the senses are the operative organs of the active self which is agitated by the Vikshepa-Shakti or the distracting power of Maya. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that the one Brahman alone puts on all names, forms and does all actions in its own Being. Thus the whole universe is to be understood as a sport of the one Absolute which seems to play in Itself by revealing Itself in multifarious forms.
It is the womb of the Vedas and the Source of the Shabda-Brahman, the eternal "Omkara." The principle of sound is the first evolute from the original Absoluteness. The Vedas are the intuitional revelations breathed out by the Highest Manifestation of the Infinite Essence. They are the words which express the glory of Brahman which pervades the entirety of manifestation, and which is imperceptible to the senses. The senses cannot reach It because they are objective forces which try to run away from the Centre of Existence. The more they begin to function in their realm, the farther they find themselves from the Reality. Hence the Reality is considered colourless, odourless etc, as these sensual characteristics are not of the essential nature of the Fullness of Brahman.
Brahman is formless for form belongs to a being which is defined by space. Absoluteness cannot have a form. Form always implies the existence of its possessor in a space time universe having something somewhere outside itself. This characteristic does not form the quality of the Eternal Being for individuality and eternity are contradictions. Hence, Brahman which is Infinite is formless, and It shines eternally.
5. Some indescribable supreme principle which is imperishable, unborn, undecaying, fearless, motionless, one without a second, ancient and infinite, that thing alone exists.
The Supreme Brahman is indescribable because description always catches parts and can never include the whole in its judgments. When Brahman is said to be like "this", there is an automatic exclusion of the "not-this" aspect or the "that" aspect of Brahman. Words are too limited and the mind is too incapable to adequately picture the eternal nature of Brahman. Even "Sat-Chid-Ananda" is only a provisional description and is only an intellectual prop. The exact nature of the Reality can only be experienced as such and can never be given expression to.
The State of Infinity is imperishable, for change or death is possible only where heterogeneity or difference of nature prevails. The Mass of Being in itself cannot change for there is nothing which Being is not. Hence change is impossible in Eternity and therefore death is negated in such a state of homogeneity. Birth and decay are again the natures of spatial beings who find things and principles which are cut off from themselves. The infinite Brahman is inclusive of even space within Itself and hence we cannot attribute to it spatiality and consequently, birth and decay are denied in Brahman.
It is fearless and motionless, for fear exists only where there is dual existence, and motion is possible where space lies beyond the changing subject. One cannot be afraid of himself. Fear comes only from a second entity and Brahman is secondless and so fearless. It is an eternal Statis, for motion and activity are not intelligible in the Infinite Being.
It is one without a second, for a second entity limits absoluteness and moreover a second existence is the effect of the interference of space. When space is denied, duality also is denied. That Ancient One, the infinite, alone exists. Nothing else is. It is older than the oldest for "Being" never is not. It is infinite, because finitude is non-eternal. It alone exists, for Being presupposes all other existences.
6. What is neither short nor long, neither that much nor this much, neither black nor white, neither stout nor thin, neither good nor bad, that should be understood as Brahman.
Shortness and length, quality and colour, quantity and size are not attributable to Brahman which is Indivisible and Absolute. Such attributes are the conceptual limitations superimposed on the Reality by the imaginative individual consciousness. The conception of any sort of quality is possible when there is a cogniser and the cognised. Being itself cannot cognise qualities and relations, for such relations are connected with individualised centres which exist as independent entities. The Immortal Being which is relationless and is inclusive of the fullness of existence is itself the bosom of all possibilities and so cannot itself be involved in such self-limiting adjuncts.
It is neither good nor bad for Brahman is mere Experience which is perpetual. An experience is good or bad in relation to the condition of the mental being of the individual and it is therefore possible that the same thing may be both good and bad to different individuals, at different times and places and in different psychic conditions. The nature of the objectifying desire determines the quality of an object and hence Brahman which is Absolute Experience and which is untouched by individual likes and dislikes cannot be classed as either good or bad. Existence is qualityless and Brahman is Existence itself. It is the super-mental transcendental Living in the height of Freedom, where relative qualities are mere phantoms unworthy of notice. Brahman is Akhanda, Paripoorna, Adwitiya, Nitya, Achala and Amrita. Nothing can be compared to it. It is matchless, One without a second.
7. That which is neither subtle nor dense, which has neither caste nor name, which is immutable, immortal and bodiless, which is beyond the reach of mind and speech, that should be understood as Brahman.
Brahman is neither subtle nor dense, for subtlety and density are qualities in relation to something else and not parts of Eternal Nature. That which alone exists cannot be said to have any distinguishable quality for quality is the object of the mental functions. Caste and name are employed to distinguish personalities by their characters and actions, but where one alone is such distinctions lose their validity.
Mutation marks out the transient nature of a thing and the Supreme Brahman must therefore be Immutable. Mutability is the tendency or effort to become something else in order to obtain an unattained state or object to fill the gap of imperfection in any relative individual. But Brahman wants nothing at all and is perfect in itself necessitating no addition or subtraction. It is immortal, for mortality again is the sign of relativity which limits the Self-existent nature of the Self. Birthless and deathless, changeless and fearless is Brahman, for It is the Eternal Home of all that changes and perishes. Everything comes from it, lives in it and re-enters into it like rivers into the Ocean. Therefore, the everlasting Being, the Reality that endures without altering itself at any time, is of the same essence throughout.
It is bodiless, because body belongs to individual entities and not to the Absolute. Anything that possesses a body must one day perish, but the Absolute is imperishable and so must be bodiless. Mind and speech are forces that run externally and the Absolute therefore cannot be reached by them. All externalising tendencies try to turn their backs to Truth and so they are lost in darkness. Speech is only mind expressed and so is less powerful than mind and mind again is an objectifying force and therefore cannot comprehend Absoluteness.
8. Brahman is distinct from the gross, subtle and causal bodies. He is the soul of all. He is the Inner Ruler of all. He is eternally free. He is without action, and without motion.
The three bodies are the layers of unconsciousness that envelop the Light of the glorious Self. The causal body is the immediate and the subtlest and hence the most powerful of the layers of ignorance. It is the state of forgetfulness of the Self, where there is darkness and blindness of the soul, and the soul is left there in a state of unconsciousness of the absolute nature of itself. The second sheath is the intensified form of the first, the subtle body, where there is distraction in addition to the ignorance of the causal sheath, a presentation of untruth over and above the forgetfulness of the Reality. The third is the grossest materialisation of the imaginative consciousness where it is thickened to flesh and bone and is completely cut off from the rest of existence. The individual hypnotises itself through intense imagination into the belief that this distinguished body is its essential nature and suffers the acute pangs of separation from Truth. Life on earth is only this drama of the misery of the individual egos.
But Brahman is untouched by imaginative separateness. It is the Substratum of all phenomenal play and the world-orbs roll in it like bubbles in the vast ocean. It is the Inner Controller of all changing individuals and rests in its eternal repose indifferent to the shadowy appearance of universes and individuals. It is eternally free and can be bound by none, not even by motion and action, for motion and action are directed towards an unattained goal, but Brahman has no goal to attain and so no purpose to move and act. It is the majesty of Self-sufficiency, Perfection and utter Truth, beyond which there is nothing. It is the Be-all and End-all of everything. When that is attained, everything is attained.
9, 10. Brahman cannot be defined. To define Brahman is to deny Brahman. The only adequate description of Brahman is a series of negatives. That is the reason why the Upanishads declare "Neti-Neti" "not this, not this."
To define Brahman is to deny the essentiality of its all-inclusiveness. For, definition cannot but be partial. When it is said that Brahman is "something," it is simultaneously asserted thereby that something is "not" Brahman. But such a method of defining Brahman is incorrect, for there is not anything which is not Brahman. Brahman is everything that the mind can think of and which is even unthinkable. If Brahman is consciousness, the unconscious objects are excluded from it. If Brahman is Bliss, the individuals filled with grief are excluded from it. If Brahman is Being, it cannot be said what non-being is, though non-being is not. Hence all definitions centre themselves in aspects which are accepted as pleasant to the individuals and all unpleasant experiences are cast off as not belonging to Brahman. Such a narrow conception of Truth may be valid with respect to individual happiness but not to Truth as it is. Truth or Brahman excludes none, none is dear to it, none is its enemy. There is nothing pleasant to it, nothing is unpleasant, nothing good to it, nothing bad. Such an inscrutable Being is Brahman. It cannot be defined by any positive characteristics. It can only be said what it is "not," but we cannot say that Brahman is "like this."
Hence, the only adequate description of the nature of Brahman that we have to resort to is a series of negatives, "not this, not this." After denying everything that is relational, what remains is Brahman. This is one of the methods of Vedantic Meditation, the negative method which arrives at Truth by denying the appearance of untruth. The positive method of Meditation conceives of Brahman as Satchidananda and asserts its absoluteness and tries to dissolve plurality, duality and individuality in that Glory of Eternity.
The Five Sheaths
1, 2. The Guru said: This Annamaya sheath or food sheath is made up of the five elements. It has a beginning and an end. It is inert and full of parts. It is an effect of the five elements. It is full of impurities. Therefore you are not this physical body or the Annamaya sheath. You are the witness of this body. Understand, therefore, "I am not the body. I am Brahman."
The physical body is the grossest form of thought. The food consumed by the parents is converted into Sukla (semen) in men and Sonita in women and by the combination of these the physical body is formed. After birth, the body grows by suckling the milk which is only a transformation of the food consumed by the mother. The body is further developed by taking food. It gets dissolved in earth which is another form of food. The body is itself a food for other creatures. Hence it is called the food sheath, the material body or the earthly encagement of the soul. The food sheath is an object of perception. The Atman is the cogniser and the body is the cognised. Hence the Self is different from the body. In dream and deep sleep there is no consciousness of the body.
The five elements constitute the physical body. These modifications of Maya are not the Truth, the body and its Dharmas, size, form, birth and death are not actual modifications of the Self. Varnashrama, name and class differ in different births. They are mere accidental attributes of the body. There is no physical body either before birth or after death. Hence it is non-eternal.
Existence, birth, growth, modification, decay and death are the six Vikaras of the physical body. Just as the ether in a pot is not affected in any way by the destruction of the pot, so also the Atman is not at all affected by the destruction of the body or the Annamaya Kosha. Atman is unattached. Ether is subtle, but the Atman is still subtler. Atman is formless, changeless, birthless, deathless, free from old age. It is neither born nor is killed. Hence one should meditate on this Atman or Brahman.
3, 4. The Pranamaya Kosha or the vital sheath is a product of Rajoguna. It also has a beginning and an end. It is inert. It is an effect. Therefore you are not the Pranamaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, "I am not the Pranamaya Kosha. I am Brahman."
The Pranamaya Kosha consists of the five Pranas and five Karma-Indriyas or organs of action. Though the Prana is waking when one is sleeping, it does not invite a friend and entertain him; it cannot stop a thief who tries to remove the articles in a house. Therefore it is insentient. The Self is a mass of Intelligence. It is Chaitanya-Swarupa. It is entirely different from the Prana. The Self is the knower, seer and witness of this sheath.
Prana is only the active working of the mind. A pure-hearted man breathes rhythmically. The breath of an evil-minded person is disturbed. When the mind is controlled the Prana is automatically controlled. The Vedantic aspirant does not practise Pranayama, because his breath is automatically regulated and Kumbhaka naturally follows when the mental Kumbhaka or concentration and meditation are practised. The Pranas are the Rajasic manifestations of the dynamic mental force which with their ups and downs maintain the balance of individual existence even as the bicycle is kept in balance when its wheels are vigorously turning. When there is a break of this movement, the bicycle falls down and when the Prana is inhibited the individualising mind together with the ego breaks down and dies.
Hence there should be no identification with the Pranamaya Kosha and the aspirant should assert the Self-existent Atman distinct from it.
5, 6. The Manomaya Kosha or the mental sheath is a product of Sattwa Guna. It also has a beginning and an end. It is inert. It is an effect. Therefore you are not the Manomaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, "I am not Manomaya Kosha. I am Brahman."
The Manomaya Kosha consists of the mind and the five Jnana Indriyas. It is a means of enjoying pleasure and pain. The mind causes egoism in the body and "mine"-ness in house, sons, wife, wealth, etc., and passes outside through the avenues or channels of these five Indriyas. It is the internal instrument for gaining the experiences and knowledge of this world. Mind is associated with the Vrittis or waves of lust, anger, etc., and is a terrible objectifying agent. Mind is a Vikari, it constantly changes itself.
The Self is a witness of the Manomaya Kosha. The Self is Nirvikari. The mind is not the Self. The Self is the Atman or Brahman, unblemished, eternal and changeless, and one should meditate on it as such.
7, 8. The Vijnanamaya Kosha or this Buddhi sheath is a product of Sattwa Guna. It has also a beginning and an end. It is inert. It is an effect. Therefore you are not the Vijnanamaya Kosha. You are witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, "I am not the Vijnanamaya Kosha. I am Brahman."
The Vijnanamaya Kosha consists of the intellect in conjunction with the five organs of knowledge or the Jnana-Indriyas. During sleep it gets involution or Laya along with Chidabhasa or the reflection of Pure Consciousness. During waking state it is the doer. It is an effect like a jar and is inanimate. It shines in borrowed feathers. It borrows its light temporarily from its source, just as the moon borrows its light from the sun. It is not the eternal Self.
The Pranamaya, Manomaya and the Vijnanamaya Koshas constitute the subtle body. The subtle body is composed of the five unquintuplicated elements. There is neither breathing nor talking, neither seeing nor hearing in the dead body. There is also no warmth. The self-cognitions such as "I speak; I hear; I am hungry; I am thirsty;" and the like appear distinctly in the subtle body. The subtle body operates in the waking and the dreaming states. Ghosts and apparitions are the manifestations of the subtle body only.
The ego is hidden in the intellect and the memory (Chitta) is hidden in the mind. The subtle body thus, contains nineteen principles or Tattwas. It is also called the "Puri-Ashtaka" or the eightfold city. The five organs of sense, the five organs of action, the five vital breaths, the five subtle primary elements, the fourfold Antahkarana, ignorance, desire and action are the eightfold city of the subtle body.
The physical body is only an instrument in the hands of the subtle body. When the subtle body is disciplined through Pranayama, abstraction and concentration, the physical body also becomes very healthy and strong. Whatever the subtle body is, that the physical body also becomes. The mind which is the ruler of the subtle body gets fattened by worldly affections, by avarice for wealth, by the acquirement of women and gold and by attachment to the external fleeting forms of beauties. The mind is thinned out by eradication of the Vasanas and egoism.
The subtle body is the distracted expression of the self through Avidya, the causal sheath. Therefore it is not the Truth. Truth is Brahman and all else is false. One should meditate that he is not the subtle body and that he is the self-effulgent Atman.
9, 10. The Anandamaya Kosha or this bliss sheath is Avidya or ignorance, a modification of Prakriti. It is the effect of past deeds. It is endowed with changing attributes. It is Jada or insentient. Therefore you are not the Anandamaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, "I am not the Anandamaya sheath. I am Brahman."
The Anandamaya Kosha is made of Mula-Ajnana. It is the Karana Sarira or the causal body which is the substratum of all other sheaths which are external to it. Its three attributes or Dharmas are Priya, Moda and Pramoda, affection, delight and intense happiness. It is the indescribable beginningless Avidya, the nescience of the Atma, and is composed of Malina Sattwa. It is inanimate, beginningless, but has an end in Atma-Jnana.
The ignorance of the real nature of the Self constitutes this causal body or seed-body. It contains the potentialities or the seeds for the subtle and gross bodies. It projects the appearance of the whole universe through the subtle sheath. It is the food of ignorance for the hungry ego. The mind has come out of this ignorance and gets involved in it during deep sleep. In the sleeping state there is a vigorous functioning of this ignorance in which everything is lost as in pitch darkness. The Karana Sarira screens the Satchidananda Brahman.
He who knows the ignorance or the negation of the existence of the Atman and the denial of its appearance is the true Self, the Atman. He who knows the effects of ignorance, such as "I am a man, I am the doer and enjoyer, I am happy, I am miserable," is the witness and the Atman. Hence in reality the Self is the seer, knower and the witness of the causal body or the ignorance. The Self is the Knowledge and the Light itself.
As the light that enlightens the jar is different from it, so is the Self different from the bodies witnessed by it. Therefore the Self is Consciousness itself and not the bodies.
The aspirant should endeavour to rise above the five Koshas to realise the identity with Pure Consciousness. Just as one draws out the thin stalk from the Munja grass by stripping off its upper layers one by one, so also one should take out the innermost essence of the Atman from all objects of perception, i.e. the five Koshas, by the "neti, neti" doctrine of negating unreality. Just as butter is removed from milk by churning the mixture of curd, so also the butter of the Atman should be taken from the mixture of the five Koshas by the churning of constant meditation on the Immortal Brahman which fictitiously appears as the sheaths, the world, etc. When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realises the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.
excerpt from the book : Moksha Gita.pdf - Swami Sivananda