Japa is a form of worship. A form of mediation leading to the appreciation that you are the consciousness that is silence!

gurudev (2)Repeating a mantra or a hymn or a name of the Lord is japa जप. It is also a form of prayer and worship. A devotee performs japa with a spirit and attitude of devotion. Japa is a special kind of worship that can be at the level of speech or mind. Japa has three forms ucca ऊचा, manda मण्ड and manasa मनस japa, Ucca japa is to repeat the name of the Lord loudly so that others around can also hear. Manda or upamsu japa is when it is repeated softly so that the performer alone can hear. Manasa is when the name is repeated mentally. Each form is considered superior to the previous one. Chanting softly is considered superior to chanting aloud and mental chanting superior even to that, for simple reason that each following step requires more concentration than the previous one.

A mantra is p a sacred formula in repeating which a certain attitude is also involved. For example, in the mantra, Om namah Sivaya ॐ नमः शिवाय, salutations to Lord Siva, the attitude of surrender is involved. Similarly also in Sri krasnah Saranam mama श्री कृष्ण शरणम् मम्, Lord Krishna is my refuge. In the GayatrI-mantra we meditate upon the brilliant light of Lord Sun to inspire our thoughts in a noble direction. Japa is a very important form of worship. Lord Krishna says in the Gita :

यज्ञानां जपयज्ञोऽस्मि !!
yajñānāṁ japa-yajño smi!! [10.25]

“Among the yajna I am japa-yajna.” Japa, repeating the name of the Lord is compared to yajna, sacrificial ritual. The Lord says, among all sacrifices japa is the most exalted. He identifies himself with it, saying he is the ritual in the form of japa, since it does not involve offering of any material other than one’s own self and devotion.

Japa is prescribed as a spiritual practice for the devotees. It helps us develop focus and concentration of the mind. When Om namah Sivaya, Om namah Sivaya is repeated, the mind is able to maintain the flow of the same thought form. The mind is nothing but a flow of thoughts, in which there seems to be a connection between one thought and another. We do not know what that connection is and hence it is hard to say what that next thought will be. The mind also has a habit of wandering and getting distracted. Therefore in japa, we deliberately give a specific occupation to the mind. When every successive thought is the same, like when repeating a name or a mantra, the mind develops an ability to focus itself on one thought. When the mind wanders it is brought back to the mantra or the name that is being repeated.

Japa is a spiritual practice because not just any word or formula is repeated. It is the name of the Lord that is repeated. The very utterance invokes the devotee in a person. It is the devotee who repeats the name of his Lord, his ista-devata इष्ट देवता for whom he has reverence and love. It is with this worshipful and prayerful mind that the Lord’s name is repeated and that has a soothing and purifying effect. Japa is compared with the flow of the sacred Ganga. Just as many unclean streams of water become the Ganga when they merge in her, so too when the impurities of the mind merge in the name of the Lord they become sanctified.

Japa can be for meditation also. When it is performed at the level of the mind it becomes an excellent form of meditation, involving a worshipful attitude. Our Pujya Swamiji says that the japa can be further utilized for contemplation on the Self, by repeating the name of the Lord with devotion, the mind does calm down. The repetition gets progressively slower. As the repetition becomes slower and the mind gains a degree of calmness, one gains an ability to witness the mantra that is chanted. By long practice the mantra emerges from the mind without any effort and one becomes the witness. The observation of the mantra and the space between the mantra also becomes possible. Om namah Sivaya, silence, Om namah Sivaya, silence. Appreciate the fact that silence precedes and follows the mantra, that the mantra emerges from silence and merges back into silence and that the mantra is nothing but the manifestation of silence. As the mantra merges into the silence what remains is only silence. That is the silence of the mind. At the same time you are the silent conscious witness of the silent state of mind. This leads to the appreciation that you are the consciousness that is silence.

We prescribe meditation involving the repetition of the name of the Lord because meditation should necessarily be mental worship of the Lord.

Thus japa is a form of prayer, worship, meditation and contemplation. It is not easy to do mental japa. So first of all start with loud recitation of the name, make it soft to a murmur and then bring it to the level of the mind. If the mind gets distracted, then go back to loud chanting. By long practice, doing japa at the mental level can be accomplished. This is an excellent form of prayer leading to -meditation and samadhi, absorption. Yoga-sastra says that isvara-pranidhanam ईश्वर प्रणिधानम worship of the Lord leads to samadhi, absorption, identification with the Lord. The idea behind any form of worship is to ultimately identify with the worshiped.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma Basics & Beyond
Link to videos of Swamiji’s Discourses

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How do we become free from worries and anxieties?

gurudev (2)Worrying comes to us naturally. It is not as if there can ever be no worries in life. Though it would be easy to declare that there are no reasons for worry, there can certainly be some genuine causes for worry.

Let us understand the nature, of worries. Why do we worry? It may be a question of physical security. Suppose we are subjected to physical abuse, there can be worry that we may be abused again. Health can be a cause for worry. Income can be a cause for worry. The future can be a cause for worry. These are some of the things we may worry about.

We must, however, recognize that mere worrying does not help or accomplish anything. If we find ourselves worried about something, we must confront the object of worry and act upon it. If it is possible to alter the situation, we must try to change things to make the situation more pleasant or agreeable.

There are certain inevitable things in life that we cannot help and which we cannot change. Worrying about things that we cannot change is not right. Lord Krishna says,

अपरिहार्येर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि !!
aparihāryerthe na tvaṁ śhochitum arhasi

You should not grieve over that which cannot be altered [Bhagavad Gita, 2-27].

The inevitable cannot be changed and we have to accept it gracefully. We should have the willingness to gracefully accept the unpleasant realities of life.

Anxiety occurs because we are not willing to accept the unpleasant. It is natural that we are unwilling to accept pain or unwilling to accept the unfavorable. But we must remember that the unpleasant, the unfavorable, or the undesirable is also a reality of life. Because we cannot avoid certain things, such as physical pain, we must be willing to accept them gracefully. However, accept them in the spirit of humility, not defiance or worry and anxiety, or sadness and fear. Accept it as boldly as you can and with a prayerful mind.

Prayer also helps in reducing anxiety. You can pray and seek the grace of the Lord that you may avoid unfavorable situations as well as seek the strength to confront the inevitable. Worries and anxieties call for a response. To the extent possible, this response must be in terms of our willingness to accept the inevitable. We are born, and we are bound to grow old. We have a body, and there is bound to be a disease. Where there is birth, death will also surely come. Where there is wealth, poverty can also be at hand. Where there is an association, disassociation is just as likely. These are some of the laws of nature that we have to accept, however difficult, not out of a sense of helplessness, but with grace. If possible, accept them as prasada, the grace of the Lord.

There are certain aspects to every situation that we can change and many things that we cannot change. We should use our will and courage to change what we can change, and gracefully accept whatever we cannot. This is the way to deal with worries and anxieties. When we were born, everything was provided for us. As we go along in life, whatever we need continues to be provided. We must trust that there is somebody taking care of us. Whoever has caused this birth will take care. Of course, this does not mean that we remain with hands folded and do nothing to help ourselves. But we must have sraddha, faith or trust in the scheme of things, a reasonable trust that there is fairness, which will take care of everything. It should also be acceptable to us that things may not always go well.

When we worry, let us confront that worry. Sometimes the worry is purely a supposition, as in what if? We tend not to confront situations. We simply choose to worry. ”Swamiji, what if I lose my job?” I Would only ask you to explore your own fears: “So, what will happen?” “Oh, I won’t have any income.” “So what will, happen?” ”It will mean that I cannot pay my mortgage.” “So what will happen?” “I cannot continue to live in’ this house.” “Then move to an apartment.” “What will people think of me?” ”Let them think Whatever they want.”

Very often, we impose too many requirements upon. ourselves. We have an image of ourselves and want to conform to it, imagining that we cannot be otherwise. But We. can be. When we examine our own thoughts deeply enough, we will be able to confront the unpleasant as well. It is not that we cannot confront it. We surely can. If not, we can pray to the Lord to give us the strength to confront whatever we are faced with

“God, give me the serenity to accept gracefully what I cannot change. Give me the will and courage to change what I can. And give me the wisdom to know the difference.”

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Satsanga with Swami Viditatmananda Vol.1
Link to videos Swamiji’s Discourse

God cannot be angry because anger can be there only when there is an agenda. If God also has an agenda then he cannot be God!

gurudev (2)There is a benevolent order and fairness and that is an expression of God. Everything functions according to the fundamental laws or the order, which is what ordains and controls everything. In that sense it can be said that the order is the expression of God himself. God is benevolent and not punishing. Even if there is a pain in life, which may be the result of the past actions, a devout person will not consider it as a punishment but will understand it as the result of his actions and that even the pain is meant for his growth. Faith in the benevolence of the order will create an attitude that will look at all situations as a means of inner growth.

We do not have the concept of an angry, punishing God or a God who takes revenge. God cannot be angry or revengeful because anger can be there only when there is an agenda. Anger is the result of unfulfilled needs and demands. If God also has an agenda or need then God also becomes a needy and incomplete being. Then he cannot be God; he cannot be fair. In order to be fair one must have no axe to grind. In a court of justice the presiding judge has no personal gain in the judgment that he passes. He is totally objective; and compassionate also.

God is always kind. Whatever is done is done out of kindness and not out of revengefulness. If he is revengeful then he becomes incomplete because he has. likes and dislikes. And then he cannot be fair. There is freedom from likes and dislikes when one is whole and complete within. Likes and dislikes are manifestations of incompleteness and discomfort. with oneself. When controlled by likes and dislikes, actions also will be violent. There cannot be violence for order and fairness to be there. So God cannot be violent or unfair. There will be no order in the world if he were so. Whatever is done out of completeness is always an act of kindness. One who feels happy, whole and complete can never be unkind. In God’s infinite compassion everything has a place.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma – Basics & Beyond
Link Videos of Swamiji’s Discourses

 

How do we overcome attachments & aversions?

gurudev (2)

A राग raga, attachment is created for something because of a particular viewpoint, e. g., dwelling merely at the benefits or the virtues of a given thing. Similarly, dwelling too long on the defects or disadvantages of a thing creates द्वेस dvesa, aversion. Both raga and dvesa are results of a partial viewpoint. If constantly dwelling on the virtues creates raga, let the mind do दोष-दर्सन dosa-darsana, see the faults or the harm involved in association with that object or being. This is called प्रतिपक्ष-भावना pratipaksa-bhavana – deliberately taking the opposite view point. The objective of pratipaksa-bhavana is to take into account the totality, not just one viewpoint.

विरज्य विषयव्रातादोष्द्रष्ट्या मुहुर्मुहुः !
virjya visaydvriitat dosadrstya muhurmuhuh!

The Vivekacudamani [22] says detachment can be created by making the mind see again and again the dosa, the defect or harm associated with the thing.

The pratipaksa-bhavana should be applied not only to the ragas and dvesas, but also to the related emotions such as indulgence (kama काम), anger (krodha, क्रोध), and greed (lobha लोभ्). If there is anger, we bring in its opposite emotions such as compassion and forgiveness. If there is greed, we bring in contentment, satisfaction with what we have. Thus, we keep observing our emotions or impulses and keep neutralizing them; Thus, alertness is to identify these emotions and neutralize them.

As Lord Krishna teaches us, we should do what is right rather than doing what we like in every situation. What we like is the result of our ragas and dvesas; what is right requires us ‘to subdue these emotions. We need to cultivate प्रसाद-बुध्धि prasada-buddhi, graceful acceptance. We should accept the outcome of our efforts as प्रसाद prasada grace of ईश्वर isvara (Lord); then we will not react with frustration or elation. Success also is prasada and so is failure. We can avoid elation and depression with prasada-buddhi. We should strive to maintain equanimity of mind in everything -whether we are walking, talking, doing any action. Do what is right rather than what you like. Accept gracefully what you cannot change, and commit to do what is right; where you can do something. See isvara everywhere.

Ragas and dvesas arise because we give too much importance to dissimilarities or disparities, or whenever we give importance to the name and form which is but a costume. There are many commonalities also. Even if we do not go all the way to isvara, we can notice that all the bodies are common and they are but modification of food. All are products of the five basic elements. Thus, we can identify the sameness in all beings. Let us make our minds pay attention to what is common. Thus; make a commitment to see the sameness in everything or समत्व-द्रष्टा samatva-drasta. Ultimately, isvara of course is सम  sama or equal everywhere. Thu, seeing Lord Narayana or Lord Siva in everything is an excellent way of making the mind free from ragas and devsas. We work with the minds and its impulses constantly this way.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol 2
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

How do you find the agenda or purpose of life? Is living life as a householder and raising children the agenda?

gurudev (2)

Doing your work and raising your children are only a means to an agenda; they are themselves not the agenda. One’s agenda in life can simply be emotional maturity. We are born with an innate desire to be happy and free. When can you experience this happiness and freedom? It can happen only when you are emotionally mature. Therefore, emotional maturity becomes an agenda in itself. All the things you do, such as your work or raising children, should be done in such a way that they bring about emotional maturity. These are very demanding things. You fulfill all those duties properly to bring about emotional maturity. It is different if you cop out or take short cuts, but if you sincerely fulfill the demands that are made upon you, Whether in your workplace or in relating to your family, your friends, or the community, life will become a process of achieving emotional maturity. Whatever you do must be done in keeping with dharma so that your very life will become a means to emotional maturity.

Relating to each other requires us to drop and let go of things. As much as is possible, we must let go of our demands, our rights, and our egos in order to nourish and nurture relationships. The most important thing in any relationship is our ability to nurture that relationship. After all, most of our happiness comes from relationships. Objects such as pizza and ice cream might contribute in a small way, but as emotional beings, our real happiness or joy comes from our relationships. By relationships, I mean all kinds of relationships Whether between a husband and wife, between, parents and children, between siblings, friends or in the workplace. Each one of these relationships can be a source of great happiness just as much as each one of them can also be a problem. That’s why every relationship is important.

A friendship, for example, is a very precious relationship. It is a great blessing to have a good friend, and however many you may have, you must nourish each friendship. Just as a young plant needs you to constantly take care of it, so also, every relationship requires a commitment on your part not to take it for granted. We cannot take any relationship for granted. Nothing can be taken for granted. Each relationship requires nurturing and nourishing. It requires an investment on one’s part. In turn, the relationship is a source of great joy. Every relationship can, therefore, become a means to grow in emotional maturity.

Every relationship has its own demands. The relationship between a husband and wife may be one of the most demanding relationships. Even the relationship of the teacher and student such as between us needs to be maintained, nurtured, and nourished. Therefore, each one has to play the role of being related to another properly.

We are constantly relating to the world. That is the nature of our lives. Our minds are ceaselessly thinking about something or someone. Our interaction with the world is also a relationship. We are social beings and relationships are the most important and valuable things that We have. This demands that we value them and treat them with commitment and wisdom. Therefore, even as you live the life of a householder, it is a means to grow in emotional maturity. Guard against your ego coming in the way of your relationships. Remember that the ego is not a source of happiness, but a burden. If the relationship requires that you drop the ego, then that is good. Why don’t you drop it? When we understand this, we will be ready to let go.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati
Excerpts from Satsanaga with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol. 2

What is meditation and what is it not? What are the different kinds of meditation?

gurudev (2)
Meditation is defined as, maintaining a steady flow of thought on the same object. Typically, इश्वर isvara or saguna सगुण brahma ब्रह्मन्, the Lord with attributes, is the object of such a flow of thought. You can maintain that flow by repeating a name in your mind, by focusing your attention on a form, by thinking about the glories ‘of the Lord, by performing mental worship etc. Meditation includes all these different processes. It is called upasana उपासना or mental worship of the Lord. In this, there is a duality between the devotee and the Lord, between the one who is meditating and the Lord who is meditated upon.

There are many kinds of meditation, but we define meditation as maintaining a thought-flow centered upon the Lord. It requires some support in the form of a word, a mantra, of an image to keep the mind focused. It is not emptying the mind of thought, or thoughtlessness. The yoga-sastra योगशास्त्र defines meditation as the stoppage of thoughts or a complete stilling of the mind. If there is identification with the thoughts, there is bondage. The purpose of stilling the mind is to dissociate it from all thought so that there is no bondage. When there are no thoughts there is no identification and in the absence of identification, there is only the self. The idea in the yoga-sastra is that we can gain the knowledge of one’s own. self only if we still the mind. However, rather than emptying the mind, we prefer mental worship, which invokes the devotee in the person who meditates. This helps to purify the mind and secure the grace of God.

Another form of meditation is contemplation upon the realities of life or upon the nature of one’s own self; it can be called the reality; meditation. This meditation is of the nature of f seeing’ rather than worshipping. In mental worship, some kind of visualization may be involved, but here we see, for example, the order that obtains in the universe. There can be meditation upon your own self where you see the self as consciousness, or you can contemplate on the reality -seeing the reality as it is. You can meditate upon acceptance, compassion or the order. You can choose a topic and contemplate on it.

When meditation involves the worship of God, it is soothing, healing, and purifying for the mind. It is desirable that इश्वर isvara be involved in the meditation. Ideally, meditation should involve a spirit of worship. The Upanisads suggest that we meditate upon pranava प्रणव  or om ॐ and superimpose isvara on om. The repetition, of om then becomes meditation. If one reflects upon brahman with the help of om, it becomes contemplation. Thus, one worships om as isvara in the first instance and sees the self as om or isvara in the second.

In the उपनिषद Upanisads, we find उपासना upasanas that are meditations upon the Lord with attributes, and they are done with the help of certain models prescribed in the texts. For example, we find meditations upon the harmony and oneness obtaining in the universe, based on various elements of nature or the luminaries of the different worlds. In one meditation, the universe, which is the manifestation of isvara, is looked upon as the cosmic person with the sun for his eyes, with fire as his mouth, and so on. Seeing the cosmos as a person, as one organic whole, becomes meditation. These are some kinds of meditations that are taught in the Upanisads.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati
Excerpts from Satasanga with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol. 2
Link to Swamji’s Discourses

What is the nature of creation?

gurudev (2)

According to Vedanta, creation is nothing but projection. As the dream world is projected, so too is the waking world We have that projecting power in the dream also, so we are not unfamiliar with what is meant by creation or projection.

There is no real creation or transformation as such. It is just projection, in the same way as there is no real transformation of rope, just a projection of snake. Nothing whatever happens to rope, it is just made to appear as snake. One thing being made to appear different from what it is, is what we call ’creation’. Wherever creation takes place, it is only this.

Here an objection may arise, “What are you talking about Swamiji? I take this clay, and I make a pot out of it. It is a transformation of clay. We curdle milk so it becomes curd. That is also transformation. A lot of changes happen. This table is made. Formerly it was the trunk of a tree, and then we did so much to it! Do you mean to say this is projected?” Sometimes this may be very frustrating. We will look into it more later, but if you inquire into what the substance is, there is only one substance. As far as the Vedantin is concerned, that substance is ब्रह्मन brahman. There is no other really existing thing (vastu). Brahman is made to look like a table or a chair or a house. It is made to look like the whole world. That is why the text says विक्षेप-शक्ति viksepa-sakti, projecting power.

Similarly, there is a veiling of brahman, which is limitless, one, nondual, and a projection of the world of diversity. Then what is this world, this diverse creation? As we will see later on, when you inquire into the nature of diversity, it all resolves into just one, nondual vastu. That is why Chandogya Upanisad says:-

सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत् एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
sadeva somya idam agm asitt ekametvadvitiyam

“Hey, Somya (good-looking one)! This whole universe of diversity and divisions was only sat, existence, brahman, one without a second.” That is the substance upon which various projections are made, which we call creation. This viksepa-sakti of maya in fact creates the appearance of the entire universe.

Lingadi-brahmandantam jagat srjet, it projects, jagat, the world, linga-adi, beginning from the individual subtle body, brahma-anda-antam, culminating in the entire brahmanda, cosmos or universe. Thus, from the individual to the totality, the projecting power of maya creates or projects the whole universe. The same thing is clarified in verse (Drg Drsya Viveka 14):

सृष्टिनार्म  ब्रह्मरूपे सच्चिदानन्दवस्तुनि |
अब्धौ फेनदिवत्सर्वनामरूपप्रसरणा ||

Srstirnama brahmarupe saccinanandavastuni |
Abdhau phenadivastarvamarupaprasarna||

सुष्ट्री Srstih -the creation; नाम nama -known as; ब्रह्मरूपे brahma-rupe in that which is of the nature of brahman; सत-चित -आनंद -वस्तुनि sat-cit-ananda-vastuni in the vastu, which is sat (existence), Cit (awareness), and ananda (wholeness); अब्धाओ  abdhau in the ocean; फेन-आदि-वत्त phena-adi-vat like the foam etc.; नाम -रुप -प्रसारण nama-rupa-prasarna -expansion (i.e. manifestation) as names and forms

The manifestation of all names and forms in the vastu or reality, which is sat-cit-ananda and which is brahman is called the creation. It is like the creation of foam, etc, in the ocean.

Creation has sat-cit-ananda as its basis.

Srstirnama. It is nama, what is known as, srsti, creation. What we call srsti is nama-rupa-prasarna, the expansion or manifestation as names and forms. The basis upon what it manifests is sat-cit-ananda-vastu or brahma-rupa. That which is sat-cit-ananda as well as vastu is called sat-cit-ananda-vastu. The word vastu is used here to mean ’reality’. And the nature of the reality is sat-cit-ananda.

Sat-cit-ananda is satyam jnanam anantam brahma

This is the first time in the text that we come across the term सत-चित्त-आनंद sat-cit-ananda. Sat means existence, cit means awareness or intelligence, and ananda means wholeness or completeness. That is the only vastu. This reality is called brahman, whose nature is sat-cit-ananda. It is also called सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma in Taittiriya Upanisad.

We do not find the expression sat-cit-ananda in any of the major Upanisads. What we find is satyam-jnanam- anantam brahma. Satyam is truth, ज्ञानम jnanam is knowledge, and anantam is infinite. So brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite. Do not think that truth, knowledge, and infinite are all different. What is satyam is also jnanam what is jnanam is also anantam, and what is anantam is also satyam.

The Upanisad need not have employed these three words; it did so for our sake only. Any one word is quite adequate to reveal the nature of the vastu. What happens is that each one of these words, satyam, jnanam, and anantam, is used commonly in our day-to-day parlance. Therefore we have some concepts or ideas in our mind about what they mean.

When I hear the Upanisad say brahman is satyam, truth, then I think, “Alright, I have some idea about what satyam is, what truth is”. Satyam means the material cause of the five elements, so therefore I would think, ”Okay, brahman is the material cause.” But the material cause undergoes transformation to become the effect, so I would think that brahman undergoes transformation to become effect. The material cause is also always inert, so I would think that brahman is inert.

But then comes the word jnanam, so it is not inert; it is conscious. Jnanam means knowledge, and knowledge always has its locus in a conscious being. So then I think, ”Brahman being conscious is alright, but knowledge is always limited, like ghata-jnana, knowledge of pot, and pata-jnana, knowledge of cloth.” The cognition of pot or cognition of cloth, cognition of anything that is ’this’, is always limited. So I may think that brahman is limited.

But then the Upanisad says, “No, it is anantam.” It is knowledge alright, but it is not what you understand as a given cognition. It is neither a cognition nor the knower. It is that which is the common basis of the knower, known, and knowledge. It is infinite.

That is how the three words enable us to understand brahman correctly: that it is truth, meaning it is changeless; it is jnanam, meaning it is consciousness; and it is anantam, meaning it is not consciousness of something, but is rather consciousness itself, which is limitless. This can be translated as sat-cit-ananda, where satyam is equated to sat, jnanam is equated to cit, and anantam is equated to ananda.

Happiness is only in the infinite

Ananda is where anantam is. Anantam means infinite. Vedanta says that ananda or happiness is there only in the infinite. There cannot be happiness in the finite. Chandogya Upanisad says:-

यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम नाल्पे सुखमस्तु
yo vai bhuma tat sukhan nalpe sukham asti.

The sage Sanatkumara says to sage Narada, yo vai  bhuma tat sukham, happiness is only in that which is bhuma, abundant or limitless. Na alpe sukham asti, there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Happiness is the nature of the limitless, it cannot be the nature of anything that is limited. Therefore, Chandogya Upanisad says that ananda or happiness has to be anantam.

Thus, anantam is ananda, jnanam is cit, and satyam is sat. Satyam jnanam anantam is sat-cit-ananda. Usually, the laksan-vakya, the term used to indicate brahma-svarupa is सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma. But here, satyam jnanam anantam is the same as sat-cit-ananda. And the vastu, reality, is sat-cit-ananda.

What Vedanta says is that there is nothing but reality, that is all there is. It is not that there is reality and then there is something other than reality. Reality is nondual. What is meant by ’nondual’ is that reality is one without a second.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Drg, Drsya, Viveka

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses Videos

Ananda is the Nature of Brahman, not an attribute!

gurudev (2)

अहमेव सुखं नान्यदन्यच्चेन्नैव तत्सुखम् |
अमदर्थ न हि प्रेयो मदर्थ न स्वतः प्रियम् ||

 Ahameva sukam nanyadanyaccnnaiva tatsukham
Amadartham na hi preyo madartham na svatah priyam

 अहं एव = I alone, सुखम् = (am) happiness, wholeness, न अन्यत् = (and) not different, अन्यत् चेत् = (if happiness is) different, तत् = that, न एव = not at all, सुखम् = (is) happiness; अमदर्थम्  = (if it is) not meant for me (then); न हि = (it is) not;  प्रेय = dear;  मदर्थम्  = (if it is) meant for me (then); न = not; स्वतः = by itself;  प्रियम् = dear

I am of the nature of happiness and not different (having happiness as my attribute). If it (happiness) is different, it is not bliss at all, for, it would not be clear if it is not meant for me, and, if it is meant for me, it is not dear by itself (whereas, the self is dear by itself). (Advaita Makranda – 24)

अहमेव सुखं Aham eva sukham, I alone am happiness, आनन्द ananda. न अन्यत् Na anyat, I am not different from this ananda. सुखं  Sukham is my nature and not an attribute or quality. It is not that आत्मा atma is asukha, unhappy by nature, and happiness is a quality it possesses from time to time.

How do you know that ananda is your nature and not your attribute? In answer to that question, we have this to say: If sukham or happiness is a quality or an attribute of atma, then it should be different from atma, because, according to the Naiyayikas, a quality or गुण gun and its locus, the गुणि  guni, are different from each other. If happiness is a guna of atma and atma is the guni, they should be different from each other.

Now, whatever is different from atma can fall under one of two categories: either it is conducive or favorable to atma, or the opposite. There is a third category of things that are neither favorable nor unfavorable, which will be referred to later on. If happiness is something different from atma and not conducive to atma, then it cannot be happiness, because whatever is not conducive cannot be dear to mm: This is what the author means when he says, अमदर्थ न हि प्रेयो amadartham na hi preyah; if it is not meant for me, not conducive to me, it cannot be dear to me.

Happiness is always dear tome, and, therefore, it cannot be something that is not conducive to me. We know that Whatever is not conducive, such as a snake etc., is not held dear. What if happiness is different from me, but also conducive to me? Then it would be dear to you and be a cause or reason for happiness; it would not be happiness itself.

The author says, मदर्थ न स्वतः प्रियम् madartham na svatah priyam; if it is conducive to me, it is dear alright, but it still is not dear for its own sake. For instance, certain objects, one’s spouse or progeny etc, are dear to us, but not for their own sakes. They are dear because they give happiness and, in such instances, it is possible that they may not remain dear if they cease to be a source of happiness.

The idea is that the love for things and beings that are clear is conditional. They are dear only as long as they continue to be favorable, useful, and conducive. But happiness is not like that. We love happiness for its own sake, meaning that the love for happiness is unconditional. We love happiness at all times, at all places, and under all conditions. Therefore, anything that is conducive, but different from us cannot be happiness. It can be a cause or reason for happiness, but not happiness itself. ‘

Whatever is not conducive to me or is a source of unhappiness cannot be happiness, and whatever is merely a cause or reason for happiness also cannot be happiness, because the cause or reason for happiness is loved conditionally, whereas happiness is loved unconditionally.

In fact, as the Pancadasi says, all the things and beings of the world can be divided into four categories: one ’s own self, those that one likes, those that one dislikes, and those to whom one is indifferent. Happiness is not disliked, like a tiger or snake may be, because everyone desires happiness. Neither is one indifferent to happiness, such as to a stone on the roadside, again because happiness is desired by everyone. We cannot call happiness as something that is simply dear, because spouse, children etc., which are sources of happiness, are also dear. Thus, by the rule of elimination, happiness is the self.

But would it not be true that the self is dear because it is a means to happiness? After all, the self does not have to be happiness itself to be dear; it can be dear even if it is a means of happiness. To this, we have to ask whether or not a means to happiness, such as an object of pleasure, is seen to serve the purpose of the self. If the self is a means to happiness, whose purpose will it serve?

It is argued that the self serves the purpose of the self; however, then, it has to be visualized as both the subject and object simultaneously, which is illogical. Therefore, we have to conclude that self is dear, not because it is a means of happiness, but because it is happiness itself.

Common experience is that happiness is born and it dies, that it arises and subsides, but you claim that the self is always there. In that case, how can happiness, which is impermanent, be the self? The answer is that what arises and subsides is the thought, which manifests as happiness. Indeed like the sun, which always shines in the sky, happiness always shines as the self, because it is the same as the consciousness that is self-shining.

However, just as clouds create the disappearance of the sun, so also, रजस rajas and तमस tamas create the disappearance of happiness. When the thought becomes सात्विक satvika, being transparent, the happiness becomes manifest. Happiness that is the self always is It is not created. It only needs to manifest and that happens when the mind becomes satvika or pure.

Thus, with the help of reasoning, on the strength of the experience of wise, as well as many statements of, the scriptures, it is made clear that happiness is not a quality or an attribute of the self, but the nature of the self.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Advaita Makranda of Sri Lakshmidhara Kavi

Link to Swamiji’s Discourses

What is the Nature of the Self?

gurudev (2)


अहमस्मि सदा भामि कदचिन्नाहमप्रिय:|

ब्रह्मैवाहमतः सिद्धं सच्चिदानन्दलक्षणम् ||

 Ahmasmi sada bhami kadachinnahamapriyah |
Brahhmaivahamatah siddham saachidanandalaksanam ||

सदा = always, अहम् अस्मि = I exists, भामि = I shine, अहम्= I (am), न कदाचित् = never,  अप्रियः = not dear, अतः = therefore, सिद्धम् = it is established (that), ब्रह्मन् एवं अहम् = brahman alone I am, सत् -चित् -आनन्द -लक्षणम्  = whose nature is existence-consciousness-fullness

I exist ever and always I shine; never do I dislike myself. Therefore, it is established that I am brahman, of the nature of existence-consciousness-fullness alone. (Advaita Makranda – 2)

This verse provides a simple way of looking at ourselves. For instance, if I look at myself as the body, then I had a birth and I will face death; I am mortal and I am limited. If I look at myself through the medium of the mind or intellect, I can see that in knowledge, I am limited, and in terms of my memory, I am limited. Even in terms of skills, I know that I am limited. In every way that I look at myself, I can only sense that I am limited. such is the perception I have of myself. Yet the nature of the limitations I feel depends on the standpoint through which I judge or observe myself; indeed, if I were to stop looking at myself in terms of these incidental factors, my ’costume’, and consider myself in terms of what I really am, I will become free.

What is it in each one of us that is abiding?

Everything that you might consider has two aspects, an incidental aspect that is constantly changing, and an inherent or intrinsic aspect, which is constant and abiding. Take the instance of this cloth that I am wearing: it is made of cotton, and, in this form, it is called cloth. If you were to take away all the interwoven yarn, it would not be cloth anymore; you may perhaps call it threads. The name is changed when the form is changed; if you take away all the threads from cloth, there would not be any cloth. However, even as thread, it is still cotton. You can cut these threads into small pieces and they would still be cotton. The fact that it is cotton never changes; that is never denied. Because it never ceases to be cotton fiber, cotton is the intrinsic aspect of this garment, whereas, its status as a piece of cloth or threads or shorter lengths of thread is incidental.

Remember that the actor only appears as a beggar, king or minister, each of the roles is incidental, while being an actor is intrinsic to the individual. This is how everything in this universe is a combination of the essential and the incidental. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, (Bhagavad Gita 13-26):

यावत्सञ्जायते किञ्चित्सत्त्वं स्थावरजङ्गमम्।
क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञसंयोगात्तद्विद्धि भरतर्षभ।।

 yāvat sañjāyate kiñcit, sattvaḿ sthāvara-jańgamam
kṣetra-kṣetrajña-saḿyogāt, tad viddhi bharatarṣabha

 Oh Arjuna, whatever being, animate or inanimate, is born, know it to have emanated from the union of the क्षेत्र  ksetra (matter) and the क्षेत्रज्ञ ksetrajna (consciousness). Here Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that whatever is created in this world is a product of the union of the spirit and matter, the essential and the incidental; it is  सच्चिदानन्द  saccidananda alone, in some name and form or the other. In this cloth that I am wearing, the aspect of cotton is its essence and the fact of its being cloth is incidental. One must learn to separate the abiding, the inherent, the unchanging and essential from that which is changing and incidental. We have to investigate and discriminate between the two.

What about the self? Well, consider what it is that is unchanging and inherent about you. That would be the truth, your inherent reality. The essence of a golden ornament is the gold of which it is made, while the different forms and designs in which it may appear may change. Similarly, there is a part of you that keeps on changing at any moment, you may be a walker, dreamer, sleeper, speaker, or worker; these forms, or states are constantly changing. Then what is it in you that never changes? It is the fact that you ’are’ that never changes. The I ’am’ never changes. Your roles as a son, a father, a brother or friend, a sleeper, dreamer, speaker or teacher keep on changing, but the fact that you ’are’ never changes.

How do I know that I ’am’? Do I need to hear myself to know that I am? Do I need to touch myself to know whether I am? Do I ever need to say, “Let me see whether or not I am there”? Understand that even seeing, touching, hearing etc., can take place only when one is there in the first place. Making any such effort presupposes that one ’is.’ If I want to know where I am, I may need to ask somebody or look around to determine my position. However, to know that I ’am’ does not require any effort on my part. Everything requires the ’I’ to reveal it, whereas, the ’I’ itself does not require anything in order to reveal itself. That I ‘am’ or that you ’are’ is self-revealing. This is the meaning of such: bhami, I always shine.

Being and shining or revealing always go together. For instance, there is a flower in my hand. When can you say the flower is? Only when the flower is, that you can see it; only when you see it can you cognize it. Only when the flower becomes an object of your awareness do you see it. However, when can the flower become the object of your awareness? That can happen only when it is. So which comes first? Is it the fact that you see it or the fact that it exists? Unless it exists you cannot see it and unless you see it you cannot be aware of its being there. This is why being and shining or being and knowing happen together.

To be and to shine are not two different things. That you are is a self-revealing and undeniable fact about you. Nobody can take away from you the fact that you ’are.’ That you are smart can be taken away by proving you not to be so, or that you are successful can be proved wrong by pointing out your failures. Such concepts are relative, whereas the fact that you are and that you shine is not relative; it is not a point of view. The fact of your being does not depend on anything else for it to be. It is the one aspect of you that is independent of everything else.

Now the poet says, कदचिन्नाहमप्रिय: kadacit na aham apriyah, I am never ‘not dear’ to myself, meaning, I always love myself. One may ask, “How do you say that I love myself”? Sometimes, I hate myself for having done something wrong.” It is true that sometimes, people hate themselves so much, they want to commit suicide. Nobody would want to commit suicide if they did not hate themselves. However, upon careful deliberation, we can see that every instance of self-hatred is indeed a hatred of pain, of failure; what one hates is the incapability that has led to the failure. Why do we hate these things? It is because there is always love for oneself.

We love the limitless self, which is  आनन्द ananda (bliss), so we hate that which makes us feel limited. A person has thoughts of suicide when there is no hope in life and he feels helpless. Yet this only shows a hatred for pain and not hatred for existence, only, he does not know how to end the pain. The impulse to end his existence only reflects his desire to end the pain. In fact, even hatred for life reveals the love for the self, and, therefore, under no condition, कदाचित् kadacit, does one hate oneself; in other words, under all conditions, one loves oneself.

The love for the self is unconditional. For instance, while others may not like to see our faces, we love to see ourselves in the mirror. We keep looking at ourselves when we brush our teeth, or when we comb our hair after a shower, and ‘We never miss a chance to look at ourselves on any reflecting surface, even if it looks distorted!

But why is the body so dear to us? It is because the self is reflected in it; it is not dear when the self does not reflect in it. As Sri Sankaracarya says in the Bhaja Govindam (Bh.Go – 6), भार्या बिभ्यति तस्मिन्काये  bharya bibhyati tasmin kaye, even the wife fears the body of the husband once the life-breath leaves it. Even the wife that loved the husband more than her own life fears his body once life ceases to reflect in it, once the grace of the self is no longer present in it. Anything becomes clear because of its association with the self and it remains so for as long as it reflects the self.

When does something reflect the self? It is seen to reflect the self as long as it is favorable to us, as long as it is helpful to us or pleasing to us. The moment things start hurting us, they do not remain the object of our love. We love things as long as they reflect the self or are favorable to us. While the love for everybody and everything else is conditional, the love for the self is unconditional.

Everything about us changes, but that we are aware never changes. We are aware in the waking state, we are aware in the dream state, and we are aware in the sleep state as well. We are of the nature of that awareness, which illumines the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. In the deep sleep state, we are not aware of anything particular, but unconditioned awareness is nevertheless present. In a pitch-dark room, we do not see anything Yet when we say that we do not “see” anything, what do we mean? It is only when our eyes have the ability to see anything at all that we can say we do l not see anything. Saying we do not see anything in darkness nevertheless involves seeing; it simply means that one is aware of the absence of everything.

The eyes see even in a dark room, but they see only darkness. It is because of this that we can say that it is dark. Similarly, even in the deep sleep state, there is awareness; only, there is nothing to be aware of. The self is always shining and as awareness illumines the waking, dream and deep sleep states. This awareness has no boundary because it has no form or attributes. We are of the nature of that attribute-less awareness.

Asti is sat, bhati is cit, and priyam is ananda, because happiness is so dear to us. Wherever there is ananda, there is also love. Therefore, we are sat-cit-ananda. What is the nature of ब्रह्मन् brahman? That is also sat-cit-ananda. The Taittiriya Upanisad (2-1) defines brahman as सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं satyam, jnanam, anantam. Satyam means truth, jnanam means knowledge, and anantam means limitless. Whatever is limitless is also ananda.

As the Chandogya Upanisad says, (Ch.Up. 7-23-1) यो वै भूमा तत्‌ सुखं yo mi bhuma tat sukham, what is limitless is indeed happiness. Satyam is the same as sat and jnanam is the same as cit. Therefore, brahman is the same as sat-cit-ananda. Because we are also sat-cit-ananda, it stands to reason that we are brahman; brahman is our essential nature. It is in this manner that the author shows the possibility that we can be brahman.

Brahman is sat-cit-ananda. The abiding reality of each one of us is also sat-cit-ananda. Even though the states of waking, dream, and sleep come and go and our roles as doer, enjoyer etc. are variable and constantly changing, अस्ति भाति प्रियं asti bhati priyam, never leaves us under any condition; it is अबाधितं abadhitam, never negated. You are asti bhati priyam always, at all times, in all places, and under all conditions. At no time are you not asti bhati priyam. You cannot get away from it, just as a golden ornament cannot get away from gold.

Upon being told this, however, a question immediately arises. How can I be brahman’? I am limited in power, knowledge, and strength, and insignificant in every way, so how can I be the limitless brahman? Vedanta says that even the insignificant can be limitless, because insignificance obtains solely at the level of the form. For instance, a drop of water might feel insignificant if it compares itself with the ocean; here it is looking at itself as a form, a tiny drop, whereas the ocean is endless. However, if it thinks of itself as water, it would feel no different from the ocean. As a drop, it is insignificant in size and extent compared to the size and boundless nature of the ocean, but as water, it is the truth of the very ocean itself. Similarly, you are limited only at the level of the उपाधि  upadhi (costume) and your reality is no different from brahman; you are sat-cit-ananda.

When brahman manifests in the costume of a limited name and form, it is the ego, the jiva, and when the same brahman manifests in the costume of the totality, it is Isvara. In essence, however, Jiva and Isvara are are not different. In the Upadesa Saram, Sri Ramana Maharshi (Upadesa Saram 24) says,

ईश जीवयोर्वेषधीभीदा|
सत्स्वभावतो वस्तु केवलम् ||

isa-jivayor vesa-dhi-bhida, sat-svabhavato vastu kevalam

 due to the reality given to the costume (upadhi) there is the notion of division between Isvara and जीव jiva. However, from the standpoint of the essential nature, which is sat, the truth is only one. The difference between ईश्वर Isvara and जीव jiva is thus restricted to वेष  vesa in terms of their essential nature, the jiva is as much अस्ति भाति प्रियं asti bhati priyam as is lsvara.

Is it really true that your experiential reality shows you to be limited? Is it indeed your direct experience that you are limited? What is direct experience? It is something that takes place in the mind and through the sense organs. However, आत्मा atma obtains as the witness. The sense organs and the mind cannot objectify it. The fact is that your self or atma cannot be objectified by any available प्रमाण  pramana or means of knowledge. You can truly never really ’see’ yourself. In reality, it is a mere notion that you are limited, something that you just take for granted. You believe quite strongly that you are an insignificant speck in this universe, limited in every possible way. Nevertheless, who is it that says you are insignificant? It is you yourself who Says that you are insignificant. Yet on what grounds do you say that?

Have you ever experienced yourself to conclude that you are limited? Given that the self cannot be objectified, how do you say you are limited? Is it because you were born, because you have a body that is subject to various limitations, and because you are going to die some day? What was born? Only the body is born; you are not born. The conclusion that one is limited truly has no basis. You may feel that you are a limited being, but the self that is judged to be limited is indeed not available for direct experience, unlike this flower in front of me, which is there for you to see here and now.

आत्मा Atma cannot be objectified by any available means of knowledge, and, therefore, not available to inference or to any other means of knowledge. The conclusion of the self being limited thus has no basis. You can never see the ’I’ directly and you cannot experience it in any way or even visualize it, like you can any other object. It is like looking at yourself in a mirror and concluding that there is a big stain on your face, when, in reality, the stain is a flaw or smudge in the mirror. In the same way, you look at your body, see that it is limited, and conclude that you are limited. The cause for it is the identification with the body, which is the non-self. There is a lack of discrimination between the self and the non-self.

The self can never become the object of perception or object of knowledge. It is of the nature of knowledge and cannot become the object of knowledge; it is the witness and cannot ever be witnessed or objectified. So you must understand that you cannot ever say that it is your experience that you are a limited being. It is a conclusion and not an experience.

When I see a snake where, in fact, there is only a rope, it is again a conclusion; it is my projection and not a reality. In the same way, the limitedness of the body-mind complex is projected on the self and you take yourself as limited. Limitedness is present in the vesa or costume alone. That one is limited is not an experience, but a projection. Let alone experience this limitedness, you cannot even infer limitedness, for all inference is based on perception.

Swami Viditatmandanda Saraswati

Excerpts from Advaita Makaranda of Sri Lakshmidhara Kavi

Link to Swamiji’s Various Discourses

What is the cause of the creation? Ignorance!

gurudev (2)

आत्माज्ञानमहानिद्राज्र्म्भितॆस्मिञ्जगन्म्ये
दिर्घस्वप्ने स्फुरन्त्येते स्वगमोक्षादिविभ्रमा
:

 Atmajnanamhahanidrajrmbhite sminjaganmaye
Drghasvapne sphurantyete svargamoksadivibheamah

 एते = these, स्वर्ग-मोक्ष-आदि विभ्रमाः = delusions like heaven, liberation etc, अस्मिन् = in this, आत्मा-अज्ञान-महानिद्रा-जृम्भिते = projected out of the great sleep (called) ignorance of the self;  जगन्मये = of the nature of (this) universe; दीर्घ-स्वप्ने  = in the long dream; स्फुरन्ति;  = spring forth.

In this long dream of the nature of this universe projected out of the great sleep, called ignorance of the self, do all these delusions like heaven, liberation etc., spring forth. (Advaita Makaranda, 18)

दीर्घ-स्वप्ने  Dirghasvapne means in this long dream. How long is the dream? It is going on since time-without-beginning. What are we told about it? स्वर्ग-मोक्ष-आदि विभ्रमा Svarga-moksa aadi-vibhramah, that the delusions of heaven, liberation etc., appear in this long dream. स्फुरन्ति Sphuranti, and in this long dream do all these things shine. What is this sleep or this dream? आत्मा-अज्ञान-महानिद्रा Atma-agana-mahanidra, this long sleep is of the nature of the ignorance of आत्मा aatma or one’s true nature, and the long dream is the world, which arises out of this sleep. Ignorance is compared to sleep here.

Here sleep is not just deep sleep; it is sleep characterized by dream. In deep sleep, there is no संसार samsar, since the I-notion is absent. It is the dream in which projection takes place. Therefore, the Bhagavad Gita (2.69) says:

या निशा सर्वभूतानां तस्यां जागर्ति संयमी |
यस्यां जाग्रति भूतानि सा निशा पश्यतो मुने: ||

ya nisa sarva-bhutanam tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh !!

ya–what; nisa–is  night; sarva–all; bhutanam–of living entities; tasyam–in  that; jagarti–wakeful; samyami–the self-controlled; yasyam–in which; jagrati–awake; bhutani–all beings; sa–that is; nisa–night; pasyatah–for the introspective; muneh–sage.

In the reality to which all the creatures are sleeping, the wise person is awake. That which is night to the wise, there, the ignorant creatures keep awake.

Ignorance is often compared to the state of sleep or the darkness of the night; both deprive us of the perception of what truly is. In the case of sleep, there is often also a projection of the dream, comparable to the projection of a snake on rope. This projection is प्रातिभासिक सत्ता pratibhasika-satta or a subjective . projection, being the projection of the individual mind. Then there is the creation in the waking state, which is an objective reality, a projection of माया maya or the cosmic mind, the creative power of ईश्वर Isvara.

The individual projection, such as the dream, is called जीव श्रुष्टि jiva-srasti, and Isvara’s projection, viz., this objective world of names and forms, is called ईश्वर श्रुस्ष्टि Isvara-srsti. Being projections, both are मिथ्या mithya, and, very often, the individual projection is cited as an example to explain the reality of the creation, which is called a long dream, dirgha-svapna.

In the verse of the Bhagavad Gita quoted above, Lord Krishna says that the ignorant are asleep to the reality, meaning that they are unaware of the reality to which the wise are awake. That reality is the self, the consciousness or ब्रह्मन् brahman, the very substratum of the universe of names and forms. The universe exists and shines because of brahman, just as a projected snake exists and shines upon the rope, its substratum. The wise know brahman as the self that is self-shining and give no reality to the world of duality.

When it is said that the wise person is asleep to the world, what is meant is that he does not give reality to the world; he knows it to be mithya. On the other hand, the ignorant person gives reality to the world of names and forms, to the duality, which is a projection and is compared to a dream. In the dream state, a person is asleep to the reality of the waking world and awake to the dream world projected by his own mind. Similarly, the ignorant person is both sleeping and awake at the same time; he is asleep to the absolute reality that is brahman and awake to the objective reality or projection, in taking it to be real. The ignorant are all asleep to the reality of the self, but awake to this world, which they look upon as real.

What is the cause of the creation? Vedanta states that maya or ignorance gives rise to the creation. We call mithya the projecting power, while the scientists call it energy. There are two aspects to ignorance -its power to veil and its power to project. In the rope-snake example, there is delusion of there being a snake where there is only a rope; here the snake is a projection and the rope is veiled. In the same manner, the true nature of self is veiled by self-ignorance, while all kinds of false notions are projected upon it. The false notions about oneself are the reason for creation. If I knew myself correctly, there would be no need to create anything.

What is the purpose of the creation? The creation exists so that our desires may be fulfilled. What is the desire? It is that we should be free, limitless. How can there be a desire to be limitless, when one is already limitless? It is because we are not only unaware of this truth, but also take ourselves to be limited; hence, we are constantly striving to fulfill our desire to become limitless, to become free. The universe must necessarily be there to enable us to fulfill our desire to be limitless, which is indeed the desire behind all desires.

Desires are of two kinds: one is the desire for स्वर्ग svarga – heaven or material prosperity, and the other is the desire for moksa मोक्ष, liberation or spiritual prosperity. To some, moksa becomes very important, and, to some others, svarga. The desire for moksa indeed amounts to the limitless seeking limitlessness. The one who is of the very nature of आनन्द ananda searches in vain for happiness; this absurdly ridiculous situation in our lives is created by ignorance. Desire is thus the product of the ignorance of one’s true self.

Why do we say that the universe exists so that we may fulfill our desires? It is, because, to fulfill even a simple desire, such as for a cup of tea, you need the Whole universe to cooperate. For instance, you need tea, you need sugar, you need water, and perhaps milk, and then you need a stove on which to heat the water. Yet, come to think of it, you would also need gas to run the stove, and the gas comes from petroleum wells, and the sugar is extracted from sugarcane, which needs water, sunlight etc. to grow, which, in turn, will require the contribution of all the elements of the universe.

Indeed, therefore, to fulfill the simple desire for a cup of tea, you will find that there is an entire chain of requirements that depend on the help or contribution of the whole universe. It means that this entire universe is a product of countless desires, which have arisen from the primary desire to be free, which, in turn, is a product of ignorance.

Ignorance both exists and shines in consciousness. Therefore, consciousness or brahman is indirectly the reason for ignorance. The corollary is that consciousness is also the indirect cause of the creation and not the direct cause. Vedanta explains that the primary cause of creation is अविद्या avidya, ignorance or माया maya. However, maya is enlivened only in the presence of consciousness, and, therefore, in an indirect way, consciousness or brahman is also looked upon as the cause of the creation. God is called the creator, sustainer, and dissolver in an indirect sense; the universe is primarily created, sustained, and dissolved by maya. This is why the text describes universe as a long dream projected by the great sleep of ignorance.

The ignorance of the self is the great sleep because it is beginning-less. And it is called sleep because it veils the true nature of the self and projects the dream of the universe. In this long dream of the universe given reality by the ignorant do the delusions of heaven, liberation etc. shine. The dream world is real for one who is dreaming, and, similarly, the world of duality is real for the ignorant. He takes himself to be a limited being and entertains a desire to be free. Because of a lack of maturity, he looks upon svarga, the heaven or any other worldly or otherworldly achievement, as representing freedom and aspires to gain it. Another one, who has gained emotional maturity, understands the transient nature of all worldly and otherworldly achievements and desires; instead, he aspires to gain moksa or the permanent.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Advaita Makaranda of Sri Laksmidhara Kavi

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