Essence of Advaita -- A Question-Answer Session - Part 3/3
(Excerpted from Yogavaasishta, Chapter VI: Nirvana, Book - II, Sarga 190)
Sage Vasishta: The misery being experienced in a dream will vanish when you wake up. Similarly, the sorrow of the world will go away with Self-realization. This is the only method to get rid of the worldly unhappiness.
Rama: We do not achieve much by equating the dream and wakeful worlds. How do the objects appearing in dreams or the wakeful world lose their form?
Sage Vasishta: When you analyze the pros and cons of the dream world after you wake up, you will easily see that even the hardest rocks and mountains in a dream have after all no reality. Likewise if you investigate in depth from a position of the Knowledge of Truth, you will let go the notion that the worldly objects are real.
Rama: What does a Jivanmukta who achieved subtle discretion through such an in depth inquiry see? How does he escape the illusory world?
Sage Vasishta: The world appears as if it was not there at all to a Jivanmukta in whom the past innate tendencies are annihilated. The world appears like a hut in ruins or like a castle in the air or like a fading water color painting on the wall.
Rama: What sort of experience does a Jivanmukta with attenuated impressions get?
Sage Vasishta: He will gradually obtain the higher stages on the Path of Knowledge. He will later shed even the remnant impressions and finally achieve Nirvana.
Rama: The innate tendencies are an accretion from innumerable past births. How do they get erased in this birth?
Sage Vasishta: When once you realize the truth of what is, the visible world which has originated in a fantasy will linger like a burnt out seed. From then on, as the current sufferage (praarabdha) gets expended, even the minimal appearance of the world will fade away.
Rama: After a Jivanmukta stops perceiving the visible objects as gross things, what steps does he have to take so that the world does not get projected again? How does he gain permanent peace?
Sage Vasishta: His mind transforms to Self. Hence he does not have to struggle to control the mind. He will have no desire to experience things. He doesn’t need to do any thing anymore.
Rama: Though one knows that the world is as empty as the thoughts of an infant, desire for experiencing the worldly objects does not seem to wane. Even a baby cries if its pet things are broken. That being the state of the world, how is one to get rid of the temptation?
Sage Vasishta: Once you know for sure that the thing you are running after is a product of fantasy, you will not regret its loss. Hence you should first make an effort to develop proper care in discerning unambiguously an imaginary object from the true thing. With that you will automatically lose interest in experiencing worldly objects and will eventually attain peace.
Rama: The illusion is produced by the mind. So we have to understand the mind if we have to understand the illusion. What should we do to know the mind?
Sage Vasishta: Mind is the name of Consciousness (chit) when It has a propensity to be as an object (chetya).
You have to inquire in depth in order to experientially understand this. Listening to my instruction is itself an inquiry. The past impressions will be weakened by the teaching.
Rama: Mind is not exterminated even by rigorous efforts through Yoga. Past impressions are not extinguished as long as there is an active mind. In order to achieve eternal Nirvana, mind has to be annulled. How does this transformation take place?
Sage Vasishta: The fact of matter is there are no perceivables. Once this is realized, what does the mind hang on to? If there is nothing to grasp, mind itself falls off. In other words, one has to wipe out the percepts. That means you have to arrive at a state where no ‘thing’ is seen. This is the only method to achieve a null-mind.
Rama: How do you deny what is being experienced? How do you brush it away?
Sage Vasishta: Look, what is it that is being experienced? What is being experienced by the ignorant is different from what is experienced by the Knowers of Truth. There is no ‘beingness’ in the objects experienced by the ignoramus. There is no name or form to what is experienced by the Knowers of Truth. It is ineffable. It is Non-dual.
Rama: What is the quality of the world seen by the ignorant? Why is it not true? What is the quality of the world visible to the Knowers of Truth? And why can’t we express it in words?
Sage Vasishta: The world that appears to the ignorant has a beginning and an end. It has an origination and a dissolution (birth and death). The world of the Knowers of Truth does not have such endpoints. Because the world has never originated in their view, it has not been there at all! Hence it is inaccessible for words.
Rama: How does something that is not born at all come into one’s experience?
Sage Vasishta: Just like the dreams!
Rama: The experiencing in dreams or daydreaming is caused by the impressions acquired from the interactions with things in the wakeful world.
Sage Vasishta: Do you experience the same object during dreaming as you do in the wakeful state? Or is it a different one?
Rama: It is the same thing as in the wakeful state but in the form of impressions.
Sage Vasishta: Suppose a person had seen his house in a collapsed condition in his dream. If we go by what you say, his wakeful state house too should be in a collapsed condition. But it does not happen like that.
Rama: That is true. We cannot hold that both are the same! The dream house is different from the wakeful state house. Perhaps you intend to say that even the dream house is another manifestation of the Supreme Brahman. Why then should that Brahman appear in the form of a different world now?
Sage Vasishta: There is no rule to say that what you have experienced now in the wakeful state has to appear in the dream state. Things that were experienced as well as things that were not experienced in the wakeful state may appear in the dreams. Sometimes things that were once experienced may appear as totally new in dreams. These strange things happen depending upon the sum total of experiences of that individual from the beginning of creation till now. Because of those experiences, the Supreme Brahman appears now as another world. If one is habituated to the appearance of the Supreme Brahman, he will see That only even during dreams.
Rama: I surmise from this discussion that the world comes into being in the same way as the dreams do for one who does not abide as the Supreme Brahman. But the world possesses us like a devil. How do we exorcize it?
Sage Vasishta: Inquire into the reason for the appearance of the dream which is called as wakefulness. Understand that the effect is not different form the cause. This is the only technique for you to follow.
Rama: I wrongly said a while ago that the wakeful state objects are the reason for the dream world. The real reason for them is the mind. Hence mind is the cause for the wakeful state objects.
Sage Vasishta: We have already seen that mind is none other than Consciousness tending to be the percept. So world in truth is none other than Consciousness.
Rama: The non- difference between Brahman and the world is comparable then to the non-difference between a tree and its branch. Why should we hold that the world does not have beingness at all? This is also called as ‘difference in non-difference.’ If all the worlds join together, it becomes the collective mind. You may say that the collective mind is equivalent to the Supreme Brahman. The individual worlds and the individual minds will be its branches.
Sage Vasishta: No, such a proposition does not hold water. First of all, the world does not have a cause behind it. You cannot attribute beingness to it. Hence the world is not created at all! What seemingly appears as the world is the immortal, ageless Supreme Brahman. There is no point in conceptualizing parts as stem, branch etc. within something that was never born.
Rama: Yes, Teacher! What you say is very true. The originations and dissolutions, perceiving and experiencing etc. are mere illusions like the Doctrine of Spurious Correlations based on The Crow and the Palm Fruit Metaphor.
Sage Vasishta: There are three Points of View – the Empirical viewpoint, the Logical viewpoint and the Absolute viewpoint. Each one is stronger than the other. I presented an exegesis on the origin of the world from the Logical and Absolute viewpoints. The Logical viewpoint is based on robust rational principles of inquiry. Expert Logicians qualified to examining what is perceived through proper means of knowledge (pramANa) value it very highly. The Absolute viewpoint is respected by the Jivanmuktas who have an immediate direct realization of the Supreme Truth by following the triumvirate of Listening, Reflection and Contemplative Meditation (Shravana, Manana and Nidhidhyaasa).
Adopting these two viewpoints, I explicated the genesis of the world right up to the Supreme Brahman where none of these three viewpoints or the individual entertaining those viewpoints exists. Even void is absent there and It is free of phantasm).
Rama: You have put it very aptly, Gurudev! The world is an illusion when viewed from a logical perspective. From the stance of Self-Knowledge, it is the Beingness of Brahman!
Sage Vasishta: True Indeed! The Supreme Brahman becomes an individual, conducts an inquiry and learns that He Himself is Brahman as well as this world!
Rama: And that is the surprise! Prior to the creation and after the dissolution and later during the state of liberation, the Supreme Brahman shines as One. No quarters (directions) exist at any of those times. What lamp can illuminate That!
Sage Vasishta: Yes, yes! It is quite a mystery! Vedas also admit as much.
Rama, the illumination of Consciousness you are speaking about is not like the light of Sun and other stars that you see every day. It is a lamp that illuminates all. It is the Light of the light.
Consciousness is the witness during the dream state. It is also the objects seen in the dream as well as the act of seeing. All the three are One. This is the common experience familiar to every person. Even then, he is unable to accept when we say that the same one Consciousness appears in the form of a triad – the seer, seen and the act of seeing - during the wakeful state also. He is surprised when we explain in detail. Only the ignorant feel this as a surprise but not the Knowers of Truth.
You wondered how Consciousness would have shone when there were no quarters (directions) at the beginning of the creation. Whether it is the beginning of creation, or during dissolution or in liberation, the objects that are illuminated will be non-existent but not the Illuminator Himself! That condition is unlike any of the wakeful, dream or deep sleep states. The lamp of Consciousness that remains then is called Turiya.
Rama! Achieve that Turiya! Ascending on the steps of the Knowledge Path, abide firmly in It and be silent like a statue! Be in Nirvikalpa Samadhi! Ignore the evil minded people who talk contrary to this.
Rama: Revered Teacher! If one understands the Truth as propounded by you, there is no illusory world. It was not there in the past. It is not there now and it will not be there in the future.
[End of Part 3/3.]