Goal of human life
The goal of human life according to Advaita Vedanta is Brahmajnana (knowledge
Brahman covered by Maya
Why don’t we experience Brahman? Why are we not able to see Brahman? We don’t because Maya shakti (power of Brahman) covers Brahman. In fact Sri Ramakrishna
says that various Vedantic MahaVakyas like Aham Brahmasmi do not apply to us:
Sri Ramakrishna: “This primal power, Mahamaya, has covered Brahman. As soon as
the covering is withdrawn, one realizes:’I am what I was before’.’I am Thou; Thou art I’.
As long as that covering remains, the Vedantic formula ‘I am He’ (SOHAM), that
is, man is the Supreme Brahman, does not rightly apply. The wave is part of the water, but the water is not part of the wave.”
Why is it that so few people succeed in attaining Brahmajnana? The answer is
given in the conversation given below.
Sri Ramakrishna: “The attainment of the Absolute is called knowledge of Brahman. But it is extremely difficult to acquire. A man cannot acquire the knowledge of Brahman unless he completely rids himself of his attachment in the world.”
M: “Sir, is there no spiritual discipline leading to realization of the Impersonal God?”
Sri Ramakrishna:”Yes, there is. But the path is extremely difficult. After
intense austerities the rishis of olden times realized God as their innermost
consciousness and experienced the real nature of Brahman. But how hard they
had to work! They went out of their dwellings in the early morning and all
day practised austerities and meditation. Returning home at nightfall, they
took a light supper of fruit and roots.
But an aspirant cannot succeed in this form of spiritual discipline if his mind is stained with worldliness even in the slightest degree. The mind must
withdraw totally from all objects of form, taste, smell, touch and sound.
Only thus does it become pure. The Pure mind is the same as the Pure Atman. But such a mind must be altogether free from lust and greed. When it becomes
pure, one has another experience. One realizes:’God alone is the Doer and I
am His instrument.’ One does not feel oneself to be absolutely necessary to
others either in their misery or in their happiness.”
One great difficulty in attaining Brahmajnana is the requirement of abstinence. I have given below an excellent discussion about it by
Sri Ramakrishna: “To be able to realize God, one must practise absolute continence. Sages like Sukadeva are examples of urdhavreta. Their chastity was
absolutely unbroken. There is another class, who previously have had discharges of semen but who later on have controlled them. A man controlling the seminal fluid for twelve years develops a special power. He grows a new inner nerve called medha nadi (the nerve of memory). Through that nerve he remembers all, he understands all.
Loss of semen impairs the strength. But it does not injure one if one loses it
in a dream. That semen one gets from food. What remains after nocturnal
discharge is enough. But one must not know a woman.
The semen that remains after nocturnal discharge is very ‘refined’. The Lahas
kept jars of molasses in their house. Every jar had a hole in it. After a year they found that the molasses had crystallized like sugar candy. The
unnecessary watery part had leaked out through the hole.”
Prolonged dhyana is required to attain Brahmajnana.
Sri Ramakrishna: “You must practice tapasya. Only then can you attain the goal. It will avail you nothing even if you learn the texts of the scriptures by heart. You cannot become intoxicated by merely saying ‘siddhi’ over and over again. You must swallow some.”
Will Scripture help?
How helpful is reading scripture? Not much according to Sri Ramakrishna!
Sri Ramakrishna (To Hazra):”If there is knowledge of one, there is also
knowledge of many. What will you achieve by mere study of the scriptures? The
scriptures contain a mixture of sand and sugar, as it were. It is extremely
difficult to separate the sugar from the sand. Therefore one should learn the
essence of the scriptures from the teacher or from a sadhu. Afterwords what
does one care for books?”
(To the devotees)”One should learn the essence of the scriptures from the guru
and then practice sadhana. If one rightly follows spiritual discipline, then
one directly sees God. The discipline is said to be rightly followed only
when one plunges in. What will a man gain by merely reasoning about the words
of the scriptures? Ah, the fools! They reason themselves to death over
information about the path. They never take the plunge. WHat a pity!”
“Can one find God in the sacred books? By reading the scriptures one may feel at the most that God exists. But God does not reveal Himself to a man unless he himself dives deep. Only after such a plunge, after the revelation of God through His grace, is one’s doubt destroyed. You may read scriptures by the thousands and recite thousands of texts; but unless you plunge into God with yearning of heart, you will not comprehend this. By mere scholarship you may fool man, but not God.
“Scriptures and books – what can you achieve with these alone? Nothing can
be realized without His grace. Strive with a longing heart for His grace.
Through His grace you will see Him and He will talk to you.”
“But one should learn the contents of the scripture and then act according to their injunctions. A man lost a letter. He couldn’t remember where he had left it. He began to search for it with a lamp. After two or three people had searched, the letter was at last found. The message in the letter was:’ Please
send us five seers of sandesh and a piece of wearing cloth.’ The man read it
and then threw the letter away. There was no further need of it; now all he had to do was to buy the five seers of sandesh and the piece of cloth.
“Better than reading is hearing, and better than hearing is seeing. One understands the scriptures better by hearing them from the lips of the guru or
a holy man……
“But seeing is far better than hearing. Then all doubts disappear. It is true that many things are recorded in the scriptures; but all these are useless without the direct realization of God, without devotion to His Lotus Feet, without purity of heart. The almanac forecasts the rainfall of the year.
But not a drop of water will you get by squeezing the almanac. No, not even one drop.
“How long should one reason about the texts of the scriptures? So long as one does not have a direct realization of God. How long does the bee buzz about? As long as it is not sitting on a flower. No sooner does it light on a flower and begins to sip honey that it keeps quiet.
The scriptures are a ‘mixture of sand and sugar’, difficult to distinguish
and separate. They are of no use in conveying the feeling of God: “This feeling is something very different from book-learning. Books, scriptures, and science appear as mere dirt and straw after the realization of God.”
When does one attain Brahmajnana?
One attains Brahmajnana when the heart becomes pure through the practice of spiritual discipline.
Brahmajnana experience described: The analogy of Ten Pots
Can one describe the experience of Brahmajnana? No one can! Why can’t one
describe it? The answer is given below.
Sri Ramakrishna:” A man attains Brahmajnana as soon as his mind is
annihilated. With the annihilation of the mind dies the ego, which says
‘I’, ‘I’. Each ego may be likened to a pot. Suppose there are ten pots filled with water, and the Sun is reflected in them. How many suns do you see?”
Devotee:”Ten reflections. Besides there certainly exists the real sun.”
Sri Ramakrishna:” Suppose you break one pot. How many suns do you see now?”
Devotee:”Nine reflected suns. Besides there certainly exists the real sun.”
Sri Ramakrishna:” All right. Suppose you break nine pots. How many suns do you see now?”
Devotee:”One reflected suns. Besides there certainly exists the real sun.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish):”When the last pot is broken?”
Girish:”The real sun, Sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna:” No. What remains cannot be described. What is remains.
How will you know there is a real sun unless there is a reflected sun?
‘I’ consciousness is destroyed in samadhi. A man climbing down from samadhi
to the lower plane cannot describe what he has seen there.”
Annihilation of Mind
The mind allows us to have the human experience. It’s annihilation is
required for us to have the SOHAM or nondual experience. Since there is no mind, it is impossible to describe this experience. This is the reason for the
Upanishadic shlokas given below:
“The eye does not go thither, nor speech, nor the mind. We do not know It;
we do not understand how anyone can teach It. It is different from the known;
It is above the unknown. Thus we have heard from the preceptors of old who
taught It to us.”
(Kena Upanishad I.3-4)
“That which cannot be comprehended by the mind but by which the mind is
cognized know that alone to be Brahman, and not this that people worship
(Kena Upanishad I.6)
“That from which all speech with the mind turns away, not having reached it, knowing the bliss of that Brahman, man fears nothing.”
(Taittirya Upanishad II.9)
“He is never seen, but is the Seer; He is never heard, but is the Hearer;
He is never thought of, but is the Thinker; He is never known, but is the
knower. There is no other seer than He, there is no other hearer than He, there is no other thinker than He, there is no other knower than He. He is
the Inner Controller – your own Self and immortal. All else but He is
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.7.23)
Inner experience of Brahmajnani — fate of the ‘I’
How does a man who has attained Brahmajnana feel? What is the experience of Brahmajnana like? It is not possible to describe!
Sri Ramakrishna:”If one analyzes oneself, one doesn’t find any such thing as ‘I’. Take an onion, for instance. First of all peel off the red outer skin; then you find thick white skins. Peel these off one after the other, and you won’t find anything inside.
In that state a man no longer finds the existence of his ego. And who is there left to seek it? Who can describe how he feels in that state – in his own Pure Consciousness – about the real nature of Brahman? There is a sign of Perfect Knowledge. Man becomes silent when It is attained. Then the ‘I’, which
may be likened to the salt doll, melts in the ocean of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute (SAT-Chid- Ananda) and becomes one with It. Not the slightest distinction is left.”
Nature of I according to Brahmajnani
What does a Brahmajnani think about his ‘I’? He finds that his ‘I’ is really Atman according to Sri Ramakrishna!
body or the flesh or something else? At the end you will know that you are
none of these. You are free from attributes. Then you will realize that you
have never been the doer of any action, that you have been free from virtue
and faults alike, that you are beyond righteous and unrighteousness.”
More posts by this author:
- Who is right, Sankaracharya or Ramanuja?
- An outline of Hindu dharma
- Experiences on the way to moksha
- The Nature of Brahman
- The via negativa path to moksha
I did my school, college and parts of my University education in Kolkata. I got my M.Sc degree from Kolkata University. I went to USA in 1979 and got my M.S and Ph.D in Physics from University of Pittsburgh in 1984. I did my Post Doctorate in University of Southern California, Los Angeles and then worked as a Research Scientist in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Space Sciences Center of University of Southern California. My scientific work includes heavy ion-atom scattering, multiphoton ionization and heliosphere data analysis of Pioneer 10/111 and Voyager 1/2 deep space spacecaft and analysis of solar extreme ultraviolet data obtained from SOHO spacecraft. I have been a National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA) Principal Investigator from 2002 – 2007. I have been a member of a NASA awards committee to decide allocation of money to different scientists. I have also refereed scientific articles submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research and Astrophysical Journal.