'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
We are now studying Aatmabodha. As always, with each week, you are encouraged to review the previous teachings and spend some time in contemplation of the meanings as the affect your life. Please do consider purchasing the text. Remember, also, to recite the mangala charana before each study and review the lessons before each new one.
We are so caught up in our perception of the separateness of things, it can be very difficult indeed to conceive of all things being One. This, however, is the essence of the teaching from shloka four, which we saw last week. Aatmaabodha does not pull back from giving the Highest Knowledge right from the start! This is not to shock, or daunt, but to shake up the keen student, the 'qualified one' intimated in the mangala charana. Even if we fall short somewhat on the qualifications, though, here we find the sorts of enticing information and 'carrots' which might help us to get serious with our sadhana and start properly on the path of spiritual enlightenment. Then again, walking that path, there are many traps along the way. Attachments still abound. They may become more refined, more focused to that goal, but attachments they remain. Even to the very last moment…
अज्ञानकलुशं जीवं ज्ञानाभ्यासाद्विनिर्मलं
कृत्वा ज्ञानं स्वयं नश्येज्जलं कतकरेनुवत् .5.
कृत्वा ज्ञानं स्वयं नश्येज्जलं कतकरेनुवत् .5.
aGYaanakaluShaM jivaM GYaanaabhyaasaadvinirmalam.
kR^itvaa GYaanaM svayaM nashyejjalaM katakareNuvat||5||
Constant practice of Self-Knowledge purifies the egocentric self which is defiled by ignorance; and having bestowed Self-Knowledge, It Itself disappears, just as the powder of the kataka nut settles down after it has cleaned the muddy water.
The kataka nut is one of Nature's provisions to those who require potable water - and addresses some medicinal needs. Other, more chemical methods, have now replaced the wide-spread use of the kataka, but Ayurveda still recognises the benefits. If you have ever looked into a bucket of water which has many impurities, you will understand that to drink it would be challenging and quite likely a risk to health. A way must be found to purify it. In ancient times on the sub-continent, it was found that this nut, when cut, promotes the filtering of the impurities. The pulp powder placed upon the surface of a bucket of water will slowly become gelatinous and work its way down through that water, 'sieving' out the impurities and collecting them all into itself at the bottom of the vessel. The pure water can then be taken and there is no trace of the nut left behind within it.
It is this almost magical property which gave the Rsis and subsequent teachers the analogies for purification of the spirit which students require to further their grasp upon the deeper subtleties of philosophy.
Here, the mud of the water is our ignorance of Self and the sitting in our small egos. That muddy bucket makes a poor mirror when we look into it. All sorts of distortions and dullings are there. Equally, the ego filters out the brightness of True Self and we tend to see only the particles in the water, rather than the water itself. All of this, remember, is taking place within mind. It is our mind which plays these images for us. If we are to reach the Highest State, the mind must be purified as the water is. Self-Knowledge is the 'kataka'. Pursuing that, we practice silence, focused and singular thinking and, ultimately seek to have no thoughts present at all. The process of negating our identification with the BMI and asserting our True Nature constitutes the art of meditation. In doing this, we substitute the constant and random flow of thoughts which is the ego-state of the mind, with a constant single thought "I am The Self"… however, this too remains thought and that also, continuous, albeit singular. The shloka emphasises that this too must go, leaving no trace in the water/mind.
We require the mind to leverage that very mind up from multiple thoughts to one single, but repetitive, thought; but to experience yoga, the final union, that too must end. Think of it as when, on going to bed, we make attempts to sleep; we are aware of this. Then we are not and we are actually sleeping. Which, to be honest is a poor analogy, because what happens is in fact a full awakening such as we have never experienced even after the best of deep sleeps!
Thought is required, then, right up till the moment it is not.
[You will note that we are taking this text one shloka at a time. This is to encourage slower, deeper thinking processes - mananam. "More hurry, less speed!" Make your sadhana (homework) a daily pondering of what is implied in each shloka and how you might start to work towards the values and practices indicated.]