Zu_a! jnmaZtim SHUBH JANMAASHTAMI!
Happy Birthday Sri Krishna!!!
'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.
There's a slight shift in the teaching now, as the next shloka advises one method of reaching to the Higher.
ini;Xy iniolaepaxIÚeit netIit vaKyt>,
Nishidhya nikhilopadhiin-neti netiiti vaakyataH,
Vidhaadaikyam mahaavaakyair-jiivatma-paramatmanoH ||30||
By the process of negation of the conditionings (upaadhis) as per the scriptural statement 'it is not this, it is not this', the Oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, as indicated by the mahaavaakyas, has to be realised.
A reminder that the mahaavakyas (the great statements) of the upanishads as whittled down from many to four, key 'essence' statements according to the Veda from which they arise. To review;
Ay< AaTma æü/ayam aatmaa brahma - That Self is Brahman (from Atharva Veda)
tTv< Ais/tattvam asi - That Thou Art (from Saama Veda)
Ah< æüaiSm/aham brahmaasmi - I Am Brahman (from Yajur Veda)
The pinnacle of Vedantic thought is contained within these. There are a number of mahaavaakyas which form a 'stairway' to them, but these are given out in the same way that the World Cup of soccer, or any other coveted sports prize are put on display; so that those who are 'in the sport' know exactly what it is they are working towards.
Thus, in this shloka, Shankaraachaarya-ji tell us that by thinking on the unity indicated by these four Master Statements, but even more specifically on the statement of 'neti-neti', it is possible to attain to the Ultimate - aham brahmaasmi. This is known as the process of negation.
Fine. Intellectually that seems a fairly clear-cut teaching and something we can take on board. Meditate on the fact that everything which is perceived, even our very thoughts, are not The Self, they are not The Self. However, we cannot expect this to be a magic switch and carry ourselves to Realisation with this alone. The very placement of the mahaavaakyas indicates this. First we must fully grasp the concept of Universal Consciousness and that this is what is called as 'God' (Brahman, Aatman…) by all who seek their spiritual dimension. In our every day, if we are alert and sensitive, we can already sigh deeply at the wonder of Nature, the Cosmos, the uniqueness of being born a human being within that. This must go one stage further, however. We must start to 'see' the powering factor behind all which can be seen without such effort. The essence of existence, here called Consciousness.
That pure Consciousness is the Absolute Reality. That Self Is Brahman. This must be our next step in spiritual evolution. Until we are firmly established in the understanding and acceptance of this fact, we can then grasp what the teacher means when he points at us and says "That Thou Art!" That which we have now come to understand as the Universal Consciousness, a single Self Presence, is nothing but our own self. Is it so? We must work hard in our meditations and studies to determine this fact and make it come alive to our own intellect and then move beyond even the intellect into the knowledge the teacher already has of us… yes, yes, yes indeed, aham brahmaasmi! Realisation dawns. One of the best ways for attaining this understanding is, as stated here in shloka thirty, 'It is not this'… Self is none of this plurality, none of this nonsense we currently call 'life'.
We shall have a discussion around the vaakya 'tattvam asi' at a later stage; as a short foray into the sort of thinking which is required to resolve arguments and debates can be indicated here though, let it be known that there are differences of opinion regarding this statement in particular. Those who wish to support the idea of 'all is one except for God, who remains separate from us' argument (Dvaitic -duality- thinking) like to argue dualism is inherent in the use of 'that', indicating an other, further compounded by saying 'it is not this'. Advaitic (non-duality) thinking, however, moves beyond the semantics to the lakshana, the intended meaning. To stick only at what the words say is to limit the spirit and a limited spirit becomes a painful thing. An example of this can be worked out from the sentence 'this is that Gupta'. A friend you are talking with spots a fellow he thinks he recognises but is not certain. You can confirm, 'yes, this is that Gupta!' The friend is astounded. The fullness of this picture is the better understood by the history that Gupta was known once in the local town of their birth as nothing more than a pretty cloth-store keeper. Now, here in the capital city, he is spotted and it is discovered he is a multi-millionaire fabric designer. Gupta, however, is still Gupta. He was that, he is now this, but is still one and the same person. If we took dvaitic thinking, the argument would be that there are two Guptas existing in same body.
Likewise, the jiiva, the lowly self we think we are now, is at the same time That Self, the 'multi-millionaire' spirit! We just have to rediscover our riches of bliss and existence. All sense of duality dissolves.