What is the nature of brahman ब्रह्मन्? What is the nature of the self?”

gurudev (2)

अस्ति भाति प्रियं रूपं नाम चेत्यम्शपञ्चकम् !
आद्यत्रयं ब्रह्मरूपं जगद्रूपं ततो द्वयम् !!

Every object has five aspects, namely it exists, it shines, it is pleasing, and it has a form and a name. The first three are of the nature of ब्रह्मन् brahman, and the last two are of the nature of the world. [Drk-Drśya Vivekah, 20]

The five aspects of every object

Everything has amsa-panchakam अंश-पञ्चकम्, five amsa. Amsa means a constituent or aspect. Of these five, आद्य-त्रयम् addyatrayam, the first three, namely अस्ति asti, भाति bhati, and प्रियं priyam, are ब्रह्म-रुपम् brahmarupam, of the nature of ब्रह्मन् brahman.

As an example, let us take a pot. First asti, it is. How do you say that? Because bhati, it shines, meaning it is an object of my awareness. We can say that something ’is’ only when it is the object of our knowledge. So being an object of awareness is the second aspect. It is because it shines, or it shines because it is. Thirdly, this object is priyam, pleasing, because it is useful (उपकारक, upakaraka), it serves a useful purpose to me.

Ultimately, we know that it is the self which is pleasing to me, but whatever is favorable to self, whatever serves a useful purpose to the self, also becomes pleasing or dear to me. It is clear to me not for its own sake, but because it serves a useful purpose for me. Therefore, asti bhati priyam, the object such as a pot is, it shines, and it is dear or pleasing. Then, the pot has a रूप rupa, form. It has a big round stomach and a narrow mouth, for example. And it has a नाम nama, name, in this case ‘pot’.

If you take any object, these five aspects are there. An object is, it shines in my awareness, it is dear to me, it has a form, and it has a name. It can be a pot or a piece of cloth, or anything. The cloth is, the cloth shines, the cloth is dear to me, the cloth has a name, and cloth has a form. A table is, it shines, it is clear to me, it has a name, and it has a form. I am, I shine, I am dear to me, I have a name, and I have a form. This applies everywhere.

Everything is potentially a source of happiness.

Even though the author says that everything in the universe has these five aspects, we may have some problem with the third one, namely priyam. We have no problem accepting that something is and that it shines in my awareness, but this ‘dear to me’ aspect, I am not always willing to accept that. How can everything be dear? Is garbage also clear? Is a terrorist also dear?

Let us say that it is dear to somebody. For example, when people cook in India, they peel the vegetables and fruits and so on, and then they throw the scraps outside. When they do this, a cow is waiting there to receive them. Those scraps may not be dear to the person doing the cooking, but the cow feels otherwise, and therefore it is waiting. These scraps are dear to the cow.

Nothing in the universe is redundant, everything has a Purpose to serve. It serves a useful purpose for somebody, at some time, under some conditions. Everything is dear to somebody at some time under some conditions.

But then, if one says that everything is dear, that means that everything should be dear to me. The answer is that everything has the potential of becoming dear to me. What is dear to me is that which is the object of happiness. That which creates happiness in me is dear to me. Everything in the universe has the potential of becoming a source of happiness for me.

It is not that the happiness, or the potential of happiness, is not there in the thing, but usually I am not available to enjoy that because of the obstructions obtaining in my own mind. This question is asked in Pancadasi [12.73], namely, you say that आत्मा atma is सत् चित आनन्द sat-cit-ananda; atma is, atma shines, atma is ananda. If that is the nature of myself, then I should constantly experience it that way. I do experience my existence, so asti or sat is experienced. I know that I am a conscious being, so cit is also experienced. When sat and cit are experienced, then I can accept that atmd is sat-cit; it is and it shines. But where is ananda? If atma is of the nature happiness, then I should be able to experience it.

 Impurities of the mind obstruct the experience of happiness

The answer is that the राग द्वेस raga-dvesas, attachments and aversions, the agitation and dullness in my mind deny me the experience of the happiness that I am. All these negative tendencies in my own mind make it agitated and disturbed, and make it run away from me.

To the extent that we have अन्तःकरण शुद्धि antahkarana-suddhi, a mind that is free from रजस rajas and तमस tamas or raga-dvesas, to that extent we experience the inner cheerfulness. No separate effort needs to be made to experience happiness. The only effort that is really needed is to clean our mind of these impurities.

We can think of the mind like a pool of water. When there is dirt in the water and the surface is also agitated, then we cannot see what is at the bottom. But as you remove the dirt from the water and the surface becomes calm, the bottom becomes clearer and clearer. When all the dirt is removed, and the water is also very calm, then it becomes transparent and you can very clearly see what is at the bottom. Similarly, to the extent that our mind becomes free from impurities and agitations, and therefore becomes calmer and more composed, to that extent the happiness which is our nature becomes evident. This process is called yoga.

We are unnecessarily running after things, and are not doing what we need to do. This process of running after things is called bhoga. An external object can give me happiness only when the object is able to create that calmness in my mind for some reason. Even though there is a chance that the thing I am running after might create that kind of condition of mind momentarily, the condition lasts only for a limited time, and there is no guarantee that the object will create it at all.

So, rather than trying to reach around behind my head with my right hand to catch my right ear, why not do it directly? In other words, rather than seeking to gain that calmness of the mind through the objects, I should instead live a way of life that is conducive to creating the calmness of mind. This is Where karma-yoga comes in. We need to perform actions in such a manner that our raga-dvesas become neutralized.

In short, the author explains that you do not experience the ananda that you are, not because atma is not ananda, but because the raga-dvesas in your mind become the obstruction to the experience of ananda. These raga-dvesas are not obstacles to experiencing sat and cit, that I am and I shine. Even raga-dvesas do not obstruct that experience. But they do become obstacles to the experience of the ananda that is my self.

Swami Vivekananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Drg, Drsya, Viveka

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses

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