Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


Here is a place to linger, to let your intellect roam. Aatmaavrajanam is being written as a progressive study and, as such, can be read like a book. Anyone arriving at any time can simply start at the very first post and work their way through at their own pace. Please take time to read the info tabs and ensure you don't miss a post, by subscribing to the blog. Interaction is welcomed. Don't be a spectator - be a participator!

Self Defined

Hari OM

'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]

Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. Please use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text. 

The enquiry into Truth is now our subject. Last week we saw the initial query of the student regarding the practice of looking into the matter of Truth and found it raised a much more profound question, which we shall read today. The chanting is also supplied for both now, so a repeat of the first stanza is printed here for your ease.

आत्मा सत्यं तदन्यत् सर्वं मिथ्येति।
tattvavivekaHkaH ?
aatmaa satyaM tadanyat sarvaM mithyeti.

"what is this enquiry into Truth?"
"It is of the firm conviction that the Self is Real and all, other than That, is unreal."

'Mithyeti' means, that which can be falsified. To arrive at essential truth, we must peel away all which is covering that truth. Such covering, in Vedanta, is called as the /aaropitam or /adhyastam, the superimposition of an appearance of truth, which can be negated. A very classical example of this is the example of the rope mistaken for being a snake. In a moment of mistaken identity we can see a snake and we can become so convinced we even behave as if, in fact, a snake is present. Only when our friend comes along who has a clearer view and picks up the rope, do we become convinced that the mistake was ours. It was a rope all along, but our own misunderstanding gave us grief!

Thus, in the response to the enquiry as to what is the 'Truth' which Vedanta asks us to research, the Guru tells that it is the process (and therefore the conviction) of there being something which is a greater Truth that we have already experienced and it can be discovered through the use of negation.Constantly holding something up for close inspection and seeing if it holds up to the primary definition of Truth - that which has no beginning, is now, and has no end; ever-present and changeless.

In Vedanta it is stated that anything which is perceived is a superimposition, is therefore deniable. Upon what lies the superimposition of this world? The Self. Brahman. This is the substratum (/adhishstaana). That Self alone cannot be denied. It takes some excavation to prove this Truth to ourselves however. It is this which Vedanta requires of all its adherents to pursue. It is not that one person in a position of authority tells all and sundry, "this is IT, now bow down and worship"; although worship is certainly required it must come from the innate desire of the worshiper and not because of fear of not doing (or resulting in the fellow turning his back on any form of worship as being a 'con' and abandoning spiritual practice entirely!) The Vedantin is expected to take all the learning and work with it, make it his or her own, applying the formulae within it and carrying out all the practices...essentially, to rerun the experiment and, if applied correctly, to discover that the results are as promised.

Therefore, the attentive student now asks further;

आत्मा कः
पञ्च कोशतीतः सन् अवस्थात्रयसाक्शी
सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिष्ठति सः आत्मा।
aatmaa kaH ?                                                                                                                                      "What is The Self?"
sthuula-suukshma-kaaraNa-shariiraad-vyatiriktaH       "That which is other than the gross, subtle and causal bodies, 
pa~nca koshatiitaH san avasthaatrayasaakshii               beyond the five sheaths, the witness of the three states of consciousness and of the
saccidaanandasvaruupaH san yastiSThati saH aatmaa.   nature of existence-consciousness-bliss is The Self."

When asked to introduce ourselves, we are inclined to define ourselves by external connections; "I am the son of so and so, my name is such and such; I am an engineer; I am from that place; I belong to this group; my weight is this my height is the other; I graduated as..." Always we use BMI as the frame of reference for who we are.

Not one of us will say "I am Brahman!" Free of all the उपादाः /upaadhis (conditionings) which we have so neatly defined when asked 'who are you?', what is left? The upaadhi is the superimposition of various qualities which hold a close proximity, but are not exactly the thing. In a purer, longer definition, upaadhi is 'that which transfers its property to that which is near'. When a crystal sits on a coloured cloth, it takes on the appearance of that colour, but is actually never that colour. The colour is the upaadhi. Therefore, in the response to the student, the Guru says succinctly what the superimposition is and what the thing is upon which these  properties appear.

Next week we shall look at this in more detail. Today, listen again to the chanting and practice the words, making the Sanskrit more familiar for reading and saying.

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