"The jiva (individual soul with ego ie. encarnated being) must dehypnotise himself by meditation on the significance of "Tat Tvam Asi" Mahavakya (" I am That"). Then alone he will be free and the Jiva who was bleating like a lamb will roar like a lion."
Adhyasa or Superimposition
by Swami Sivananda
Adhyasa or Superimposition
by Swami Sivananda
Adhyasa literally means 'superimposition' in the sense of mistaken ascription or imputation to something of an essential nature or attribute not belonging to it. It is an apparent presentation of the attributes of one thing in another thing. It is the illusory attribution or superimposition of the universe in the Atman which has no universe in it, like the misconception of silver in mother-of-pearl, snake in the rope, man in the post, bluishness in the sky, water in the mirage. This wrong notion is caused through Avidya or ignorance.
It is a serious mistake to superimpose on the subject, (i.e., Atman) whose nature is Intelligence, the object (ie., body sense, mind etc.) whose nature is insentiency and vice-versa to superimpose the subject and the attributes of the subject on the object. The subject is Atman or the Supreme Self whose nature is absolute consciousness. The object includes whatever of a non-intelligent nature, viz., body sense, mind, Prana and the objects of the senses, i.e., the manifested phenomenal universe.
If the Atman or Brahman is really unconnected or unattached (Asanga), how can He be so related to the Koshas (sheaths) or the bodies as to be ordinarily regarded one with them?
The relation of Atman with the bodies can be only Adhyasa (superimposition) like that of a snake in the rope. This Adhyasa is of two kinds: One-sided and mutual
One-sided is in the case of rope which appears to us as snake; the snake is superimposed on the rope but not the rope on the snake.
Mutual (Anyonya Adhyasa) in the case of Atman with the bodies or koshas: The Atman and its attributes are superimposed on the Koshas and the Koshas and their attributes are superimposed on the Atman. So we say, My body exists, shines and is blissful and I am a man, I am a Brahmin, I am a doctor, I am a celibate, I am a house-holder, I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am angry, etc.
Attributes of the body are superimposed on the Self, if a man thinks of himself (his self) as stout, lean, fair, as standing, walking or jumping; attributes of the sense organs if he thinks of himself as mute, deaf, one-eyed or blind; attributes of the internal organ (ie. mind, intellect, chitta) when he considers himself subject to desire, intention, doubt, determination and so on. Thus the producer of the notion of the ego i.e., the internal organ is superimposed in the inner Self (Atman), which, in reality, is the witness of all the modifications of the internal organ and vice versa, the inner self which is the witness of everything is superimposed on the internal organ, the senses, and so on. In this way there goes on this natural beginningless and endless superimposition, which appears in the form of wrong conception is the cause of individual souls appearing as agents and enjoyers (of the results of their actions) and is observed by everyone.
If nothing exists but one absolute simple Being (Brahman, Atman, Consciousness), if truth is one, whence arises this many which we experience through the Indriyas (senses), whence this appearance of this world by which we see ourselves surrounded and in which we exist as individual beings? Truth cannot certainly contradict experience. Brahman or Truth is associated with certain illusory power called Maya or Avidya to which this appearance of the phenomenal universe is due.
This is the statement of Sankaracharya. This world is not real. This plurality is an illusion. It is mere appearance like snake in the rope. It vanishes when one gets the knowledge of the Self. Avidya is beginningless but it terminates in the aspirant when Brahma Jnana dawns. So Avidya is beginningless and terminable (Anadi-santam), viz. terminates after the attainment of Brahma-Jnana.
This illusory power (Maya) cannot be called 'Being' (Sat) for 'Being' is only Brahman; nor can it be called 'Non-being' (Asat) in the strict sense, for it somehow produces the appearance of this world. Just as a magician produces many things, such a mango tree from a seed, money and sweetmeats from sand, so also Brahman projects the appearance of the sense-universe by means of the illusory power, Maya.
The individual soul blindly identifies himself with the adjuncts or vehicles (Upadhis, viz., the 5 koshas: the body, Prana, mind, Buddhi, causal body), the fictitious offering of Avidya. Instead of recognising himself to be pure Brahman, he calls himself a man (Jiva). The Avidya acts as a veil and hides his true nature (Atman). He is unable to look through and beyond the veil (Avidya). The body, senses, mind, etc., are superimposed on the pure Self (Atman) on account of the force of ignorance. Through the identification with the body, mind and senses, he imagines that he is the doer and enjoyer. The soul which in reality is pure all-pervading intelligence, non-active and infinite, thus becomes limited in extent as it were, limited in knowledge and power. Through his actions with selfish-motives, he burdens himself with merit and demerit. He has to reap the fruits of actions in future births. Thus he is bound down to this world. He is caught up in the round of births and deaths (Samsara). He has to enjoy happiness and misery.
Sankaracharya does not mean that the world is absolutely nothing like the horn of a hare, or a barren woman's son, or a lotus in the sky. He means that the world has a relative existence, i.e., it is not so real as Brahman who exists in the past, present and future, that it is not real at all times. When compared with Brahman, world is unreal. This is what he exactly means.
Maya cannot be adequately described. It is a mystery beyond our understanding. It is inscrutable or indefinable (Anirvachaniya). Brahman is not affected a bit by the illusion, just as a juggler is not affected by the illusion he produces. Just as a writer of a drama projects his own thoughts when he writes down the scenes in various acts, so also Brahman has projected this universe by mere willing. This theory or doctrine of Sankaracharya is known as Vivarta Vada or Maya Vada or Anirvachaniya Khyati Vada. A tree or dog or rose is a Vivarta or apparent modification of Brahman, just as earring or bracelet is a Vivarta or apparent modification of gold.
The aim of Vedantic Sadhana is to destroy entirely the erroneous idea, 'I am the body' and to substitute the idea, 'I am Brahman.' When you get knowledge of the Self (Atman, Consciousness), this erroneous idea, 'I am the body' is annihilated and you get liberation or Mukti. This mistaken idea is removed automatically, just as the illusory snake which is superimposed on the rope is destroyed by bringing a light; so also the idea of reality of this world is removed, when you get knowledge of Brahman. The Srutis emphatically declare: 'Rite Jnananna Mukti - there is no liberation without knowledge of the Self.' 'The heart's knot is broken; all doubts are cleared, all Karmas are burnt when one realises the Self.' by knowing the Self, one passes beyond death; there is no other way.'
The superimposition is destroyed by knowledge of the Self. This knowledge of the Self is not mere theoretical or intellectual knowledge. It is actual realisation through constant meditation. It is direct intuitional knowledge gained by coming in direct contact with Brahman.
Avidya is nescience or ignorance. Superimposition is Avidya. Avidya or false knowledge is destroyed when true knowledge of the Self dawns. Avidya does not mean want of knowledge. The ascertainment of the true nature of the Self by means of discrimination of that which is superimposition on the Self is known as Vidya.
This relation of superimposition is not recognised in the higher teachings of the Vedanta, because superimposition connotes the existence of two distinct subjects at the same time. But the rope is not perceived when the snake is cognised and the snake is not perceived when the rope is cognised. There is no existence of two objects at the same time to enable one object to be superimposed upon the other. The rope alone exists before, during and after its apparent appearance. Similarly the Koshas do not really exist. They are illusory. Brahman alone exists. Brahman alone is the solid reality. The Koshas are apparently related to Atman.
Atman is without any kind of limiting adjuncts. It is bodiless. The mutual superimposition is due to ignorance or lack of discrimination.
This will vanish, if you comprehend the right significance of the Mahavakya and practise regular meditation. Just as the house is different from you, so also this body is different from you (the real you the Atman). An objector may argue: The chair is outside us while the Koshas are within us. This does not make any difference at all. A very sharp intellect is necessary to understand that Atman is distinct from the Koshas. In Kathopanishad, you will find: This Atman is hidden in all beings. It does not shine; but it is cognised by the seers who possess subtle sharp intellect.
The force of impressions is tremendous. Unless all the impressions are thoroughly burnt through entry into the state of the pure Nirvikalpa Samadhi, it is not safe for one to stay a long time in one’s native place. He will still be in the danger zone.
When Brahman is realised by means of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, then the heart’s knot viz., Avidya (ignorance), Kama (desire) and Karma (action), is destroyed.
~ Swami Sivananda