Sri Swami Siddheswarananda

Sri Swami Siddheswarananda (Ramakrishna Mission, Paris.)

SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI represents the pure tradition in Adwaita Vedanta. In this article I propose to examine certain aspects of the life and teachings of Maharshi that have appealed to me as verifications of Vedantic truths. In Vedanta there is a theistic as well as a non-theistic tradition, and these refer to two aspects of reality. The first treats of Saguna Brahman and the second treats of Nirguna Brahman. The Bagavad Gita says that the path of the Unconditioned, Avyakta is not for the aspirant who is still bound by the ‘body-am-I’ - idea, (Ch. 12, verse 5).

Maharshi transcended the body-idea on the very day he made the investigation into the nature of the Self. His spiritual career is of particular interest to the student of Vedanta; for, an example like his is rare to find. He is one who has acceded to the realisation of the Nirguna ideal without passing through the preliminary stages of discipline where much importance is given to devotion and worship, sagunopasana . In history the most brilliant example of the same line of research and realisation that Maharshi undertook is that of Lord Buddha, though he had to spend long years of meditation before he had the Awakening. We are now above the prejudice handed down through ages where Buddhism and Vedanta in their essential spiritual appeal are placed one against the other in unrelenting opposition. We now consider Lord Buddha as one of the continuators of the Vedantic tradition of the Upanishads, where the non-theistic ideal was lived and practised.

To understand Maharshi we have to place him against the cultural background of Indian philosophical tradition, which finds its perfect expression in his life and realisation. That background of his life is the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, particularly the Mandukya and the Brihadaranyaka studied in the light of the commentaries of Sri Shankaracharya and the Karikas of Sri Gaudapadacharya.

There are two Vedantic positions in conformity with two grades of seekers aspiring to know the One, Ultimate Reality; the less astute consider Brahman as Saguna, the other higher type consider it as Nirguna. The one is theological and the other is philosophical. The two stand points are not mutually exclusive; for the goal of the two methods is identical, namely, to bring the aspirant to the realisation of Brahman. It should be noted that if the theological position adopts the deductive form of enquiry, it is merely a question of emphasis on a particular aspect in the method of approach.

Brahman is posited as the first principle. There are two categories - Brahman and Maya. There is a severe and austere dialectic to establish the nature of Maya. Brahman, the Absolute, is beyond all ‘relations’, beyond the reach of all movements of thought. We have no dialectic of the Absolute, as they have it in the occident, where the Absolute is considered as possessing a thought content. According to the higher philosophical tradition of the East, Brahman is beyond the reach of thought . But in the philosophical method there is no necessity to take for granted untested universals like Brahman and Maya. Here all data of lived experience are looked into and examined to determine the truth in them. This method necessarily becomes inductive, and after a thorough analysis of experience a synthesis is arrived at. The goal of all philosophy, 'Tatva Nirnay' , is this synthesis of the totality of experience, “to know that by knowing which everything else is known.” This synthesis which Vedanta arrives at should not be confounded with philosophical researches known to us as an intellectual game. Tatvajnana surpasses the zone of intellect and leads one direct realisation of TRUTH, 'Aparokshanubhuti' . As such the whole procedure becomes spiritual. As all branches of lived experience are enquired into, Vedanta takes into consideration the analysis of the states of waking, dream, and sleep, and their syntheses in Turiya, the Supra-intellectual plane. The research starts from the sensible world of experience and merges in the Supra-sensible. When Maharshi made the first investigation “Who am I?”, evidently he had not envisaged this particular technique or any other one. He had not then any theological education. Maharshi once told me that at that time he was not even familiar with such terms as Brahman or Atman. He had not the support of any of the accepted thesis on the subject. The enquiry was his own, and the way he discovered was equally his own. He discovered much later that he had come to the same conclusion that scriptures and the experience of others in the same line had arrived at from time immemorial.

He started from the sensible world with the analysis of a factor of experience that was not a mere hypothesis. It was a burning question to him; the solution of the strongest emotion of man, — the most fearful form of fear, — the fear of Death; and he solved it without leaning on any external aid. It may also be described as a ‘suffering’ of the most intense type, since Death is the anti-thesis of Life. This fear of death took possession of young Venkataraman all on a sudden. Any ordinary lad under similar circumstances would avoid the issues by changing the predominant thought or he would seek refuge in some kind of religious consolation. But Maharshi looked the fact of this fear squarely in the face! “To whom does this fear occur? What is this fear due to? It is due to imminent death. Death of what? Who is it that is dying? If it is the physical body that is already stiff, it will be carried away presently for cremation. But this consciousness, this I-ness, with which I see the changing condition of the body losing its life, this “I” has remained totally unaffected.” That, in short, is the direct means whereby young Venkataraman knew of the reality of an inner Being which witnessed not only the changing condition of the body seized by Death but also the unchanging condition of Consciousness which is necessarily self-conscious.

To resume the subject of enquiry into the Truth. The Bhagavad-Gita begins by stating clearly a dharma sankata, a conflict touching one’s very being, to kill or not to kill. When the conflict is real, one seeks its solution. To Maharshi the conflict was real. The unignorable fact of death was there. It must find a solution and that too immediately. Such a state is totally different from and has nothing to do with a theological enquiry. In a theological enquiry the aspirant has only to fit in his particular case with the conclusion the scriptures have already given. The jijnasu is not satisfied with the dicta of the scriptures. He seeks an understanding which can be related to his experience. Since Maharshi’s knowledge, when confronted with Death, was based on his experience, he was more than a jijnasu. In fact, young Venkataraman stood on the threshold of Realisation no sooner than he survived the Death-experience. He had no need for either the karma kanda of the Vedas or for Yogabhyasa involving the practice of years of self-discipline.

Let us look more deeply into the conflict of young Venkataraman that made him take up the challenge of DEATH. As I said it was the fear of imminent death that provoked the conflict in him. Maharshi became the critic of his own experience. He did not avoid the issues; rather, he lived fully that Death-experience. Ordinary beings are unable to analyse their experiences, much less a conflict, for they do not fully understand nor do they live intelligently their experiences of life. The plentitude of an experience can be known when one becomes a competent spectator of it. Even in our ordinary limited experiences of joys and sufferings in life, our self goes so much in our acts that a disinterested outlook becomes impossible. We screen truth by our hopes and fears, by our desires and disappointments. From a single moment properly lived, says the poet, a whole eternity can be known. Maharshi lived fully the moment of his Death-experience. And he became at one stroke, Tatva Jnani, a Knower of TRUTH.

A philosophy becomes dry and insipid when it does not solve this vital problem of death and suffering. Philosophy when it deals with concepts and percepts, that have no real bearing on life, gives stones when one asks for bread! An interest in philosophical enquiry commences the very moment when a datum of experience is placed in relief as a specimen for analysis, and an attempt is made to know what it is. Very often all that we pass through as routine experiences do not affect us: for they do not stay in our memory as possessing any particular value. Only an outstanding event serves a notice, as it were, on “attention” and makes it alert; for it surpasses the norm of our usual identification with experience, and thus helps it by its very intensity, to be projected as a factor for observation which cannot be done, so long as we are identified with it. Nothing can give us more forcibly this invitation for observation than suffering when it is really ours and not a feigned one. Of the three types of suffering 'Tapatraya' , that which is of the physical order - 'Adi Bouthik' , can be attended to more easily than the two others 'Adi Daivik, and 'Adhyatmik'. These sufferings born of our subtle nature, the mental and spiritual, cannot be easily quelled. In physical suffering there is more possibility for observation and hence a greater chance of relief being administered. In the other two kinds of Sarrow the difficulty of dispassionate observation is — complicated — by the series of false identifications, 'Adhyas', that we ourselves have woven over our nature. We are caught up in the meshes of rag (attraction) and repulsion , and consequently we do not live an experience completely which, as I have already said, is the complete separation of the factor of observation, the observed, from the Observer. The moment this is achieved the answer is found.

Later on in life, when Maharshi came into contact with such classical texts as the Drg-drsya-viveka, he instinctively found there a family-likeness to a psychological or rather trans-psychological way that he himself has followed. As Maharshi plunged into the depths of his soul during his analysis of “Who am I?” he got beyond the plane of doubts; for he had transcended the limitations set by the intellectualizing character of mind that never permits that disjunction with the nama-rupa complex which is the field of empirical experience. His method has much in common with that of Lord Buddha. When Malukya asked Buddha questions that did not touch the vital issue involvedthat of sufferingthe latter replied that one pierced by an arrow would be interested only in plucking it out and not in discussing of what substance the arrow was made, whether it had a poisoned tip or not, etc.

Maharshi put his whole being, while controlling breath and vital forces, into the trans-psychological investigation he fearlessly undertook when confronted by death. The conscious principle underlying thought joined to a volition that precipitated immediate investigation gave him the full blossoming of the cognitive faculty, the way of Buddhi Yoga all three operating in one single flash. He became a Sthitaprajna, the possessor of steady Wisdom, and in the words of the Gita “having obtained which, regards no other acquisition superior to that, and where His whole being entered into perfect concentration as he analysed himself. He did not stop midway in the enquiry. The metaphysical reality he attained allowed his buddhi to be drawn out of the slough of Sankalpa and vikalpa (the image-making faculty of the mind) and enabled him to realise another definition of Yoga in the Gita: “Evenness of mind is known asYoga,”. The conscious principle underlying thought joined to a volition that precipitated immediate investigation gave him the full blossoming of the cognitive faculty, the way of Buddhi Yoga all three operating in one single flash. He became a Sthitaprajna, the possessor of steady Wisdom, and in the words of the Gita “having obtained which, regards no other acquisition superior to that, and where established he is not moved even by the greatest sorrow”.

One does not find in Maharshi that type of Bhakti associated with devotional forms; but it can be said that if the way of Bhakti brings one to an expression of bounty and love towards all, he is that. His very nature becomes imbued with love. I should not omit here to mention a scene that I myself witnessed. At my request he recited certain lines from the composition of the Saint Manikyavachakar, where the author spoke of the condition of the soul melted in love; hardly had the Maharshi pronounced a few lines when there was a brilliance in his face. He who rarely expresses in any outward form his inner emotion could not restrain a few silent tears. A slanting ray of the morning sun from the hillside made the scene still more vivid. A peace that passeth all understanding pervaded the whole atmosphere. For more than an hour there was perfect silence. It looked as if one of the fresco paintings of Ajanta had come to life! When the atmosphere was disturbed by a new visitor, I repeated before him, as a parallel to the verse from Manikyavachakar, the following lines from Wordsworth: His spirit drank the spectacle, Sensation, soul and form all melted into him; they swallowed up His animal being, in them did he live, And by them did he live; they were his life In such access of mind, in such high hour Of visitation from the living God, Thought was not, in enjoyment it expired Rapt in still communion, that transcends The imperfect offices of prayer and praise, His mind was a thanksgiving to the power That made him; it was blessedness and love! (Excursion — Wanderer) Maharshi followed very appreciatively this selection from Wordsworth and remarked to me in Malayalam – “How nicely they too have expressed these same high sentiments.” I made then the remark that Thayumanavar, Ramalingaswami and Manikyavachakar were all saints. Wordsworth, like other poets of the Romantic Period, cannot be classed as a saint. These poets had occasional intuitions of the supra-sensible reality, they were neither Jnanis nor Jivanmuktas.
Maharshi told me that what he realised on the first day when he made the maiden vichara, has ever remained with him. It has neither increased nor decreased. When I asked him why he came all the way to Tiruvannamalai and why he underwent so many hardships, which we would characterize as sadhana, he only waved his hand, implying “I do not know why all that happened.” Our inquiring minds want explanations, and are easily satisfied with some such fiction as Destiny or Prarabdha, which do not exist for the Jnani. For it is said the Karmas of a person who realises Brahmajnana are all dissolved at one stroke. From the point of view of Maharshi it must be so. To us who follow Vedanta the highest aspect of Maharshi’s Realisation is revealed in his great message of Silence. It is not that he remains without speaking a word, as he did for some years. He is now more communicative.

“When thy Buddhi crosses beyond the taint of illusion, then shalt thou attain to indifference regarding things heard and things worth be heard.” — (Ch. II, 52). “The man who revels here and now in the Self alone, with the Self is satisfied, and in the Self alone is content,for him there is no work which he must do.” (Ch. III, 17): “He who is inwardly happy, revels within and who likewise becomes the Light within, that Yogi becomes the Brahman and realises the transcendental Bliss of the Brahman.” (Ch. V, 24). What impressed me most in reading the characteristics of the Jivanmukta in Viveka-Chudamani were the lines” - He has his mind merged in Brahman; nevertheless he is quite alert, but free from the characteristics of the waking state”. In remaining a few days with Maharshi, these lines of Viveka-Chudamani often came to my mind. To all outward appearance Maharshi very often looked as if he were unconscious; but his mind is ever in such a state of concentration that even during the moments when he appeared to be inert he knew all that was passing on in the hall; in repeating verses from Ribhu Gita, old Tenamma made a certain error in pronunciation. Opening his eyes he gently corrected her. In Drg-drsya-Viveka, in verse 30, there is a fine account of the concentration of a man of realisation.

“With the disappearance of attachment to the body and with the realisation of the Supreme SELF, to whatever object the mind is directed one experiences Samadhi.” How a metaphysical experience of unity can be presented through a psychological mode where the essential characteristic of the psyche is sankalpa and vikalpa, the very opposite that produces the unitary consciousness, defies all empirical explanation. For our explanations the data of investigation is only the findings of the waking state; whereas to an enlightened man the field of research is vaster. It is all-inclusive as it englobes the experience of the waking state, plus that of the dream and sleep states. The Sthitaprajna realises the non-dual Brahman in each aspect of manifestation, not in the way a layman sees the world as fragmented units, but as one expression the same Reality that comes to us through the experience of the waking, dream and sleep states. Even to use the term ‘aspects of Reality’ with respect to a Jivanmukta’s vision of the world is a misnomer. To him the Reality ever IS and never gets conditioned into aspects, which is a feature of avidya. To understand this spiritual outlook of a person like Maharshi, I cannot do better than quote the commentary of Sankara on the 89th Karika of the 4th chapter of Mandukya karikas.

“The word Jnana signifies knowledge by which one grasps the significance of the three states. The word }ey or knowable signifies the three states which should be known. The first knowable consists of the gross state of empirical experience. Then comes the state of subtle experience, in which the first state loses itself; that is, merges. And the last comes deep sleep which is beyond all empirical experience (gross or subtle) which results in the absence of the two previous states, that is, in which the two previous states merge. By the knowledge of these three, one after the other, and consequently by the negation of the three states the TURIYA, non-dual, birthless and fearless, which alone is the Supreme Reality, is realised. Thus the knower possessed of the greatest power of discrimination attains in this very life the state of omniscience, which is identical with the knowledge of the Self. He is called MAHADHI or the man of the highest intellect, as he has understood that which transcends all human experiences. His omniscience is constant and remains undiminished. For the knowledge of the SELF once realised remains forever. This is because the knowledge of the knower of the Supreme Reality does not appear and disappear like that of mere disputants.’’

In these lines Sankara expounds in a very clear manner the full implications of what I described in the beginning as the non-theistic or extra-religious tradition in Vedanta of which Maharshi is a worthy representative. In India when we speak of this tradition we do not oppose it to the theistic or religious tradition. In Europe any one expounding such a theory will be more often considered an atheist! For it is very difficult for a European, with his Judaical-Christian theology as the background of his spiritual culture, to admit or conceive of spiritual life without the idea of God. Whenever I speak to Christian audiences in Europe, I have to tell them how a highly spiritual life can be conceived of as in the Buddhistic and Adwaita Vedantic traditions without even conceding to the necessity of positing the idea of God. This is at first very startling and very
uncomfortable to the theologically minded. They then think in terms of the possibility of a “mysticisme surnaturel” as opposed to a “mysticisme surnaturel.” A concession to study the subject under this perspective is only a recent advance in their spirit of generosity or, perhaps, of a scientific outlook towards the metaphysical reality. It is only after the visit of Prof. Lacombe, the author of L’Absolue selon Vedanta, (the first serious study made in France to understand from close quarters the philosophy of Sankara and Ramanuja) to Tiruvannamalai and his contact
with Maharshi that we can now not e a change in the outlook of one of France’s world-reputed thinkers and theologians, Mon. Jacques Maritain. In an article contributed to that well-known
Catholic magazine “Les Etudes Carmelitaines”1 1938, Maritain has taken a sympathetic position. Influenced by Mon. Lacombe and taking an objective view of the question, he recommends to his Catholic friends a study of that experience of the SELF where all religious implications are absent.

The philosophical outlook of Maharshi tends very often to be confused with that of solipsism or its Indian equivalent, drishti-srishti-vada, which is a sort of degenerated idealism. That Maharshi never subscribes to that view can be known if we study his works in the light of orthodox Vedanta or observe his behaviour in life. When he says that it is the mind that has projected this universe, the term ‘mind’ should be understood in the Vedantic sense in which it is used. Unfortunately I have no books by Maharshi or works on him with me here for reference as all of them have disappeared when our library was 1 To those who have not seen that French magazine, I would like to point out that on the elegant jacket of the journal had figured the picture of Maharshi in the midst of two Catholic saints looted during German occupation. What I write has necessarily to depend on my memory-impressions. The term ‘mind’ is also used by Sankara and Gaudapada in a wider sense than we are accustomed to use it in, as an antahkarana vritti. In certain places in the bhashyas of Sankara and the Karikas, the pure ‘mind’ is equated with Atman. For example, let us take verse 170 in Viveka Chudamani: “In dream when there is no actual contact with the external world the mind alone creates the whole universe consisting of the enjoyer, the objects etc. And similarly in the waking state also there is no difference. Therefore, all this phenomenal universe is the projection of mind.”

If the ‘mind’ used here is taken as identical with antahkarana vritti, Vedanta will necessarily be classed as solipsism! To understand the larger sense in which ‘mind’ is used in many such contexts we have to read the Mandukya karika. For example, take verse 29 in Ch. III. “As in dream the mind acts through Maya presenting the appearance of duality, so also in the waking state the mind acts through Maya presenting the appearance of duality.” Sankara in his commentary makes the sense more explicit. Let us quote that.

“How is it possible for Reality to pass into birth through Maya? It is thus replied; as the snake imagined in the rope is identical with the being of the rope when seen as the rope, so also the mind from the standpoint of knowledge of the ultimate reality is seen to be identical with Atman. (The italics are ours.)

The mind in dream appears to us as dual in the forms of the cognizer and the cognized through Maya as the snake appears to be other than a rope through ignorance. Similarly the mind acts in a dual form in the waking state also through Maya. That is to say the mind appears to act.” (We have to note also that in this connection Sankara uses the term Maya, instead of Avidya; in our Vedantic theology, Avidya has more or less a reference to the individual; and when the term Maya is used it signifies the totality of the manifested universe. This is another indication that there is no scope for stigmatising the term ‘mind’ as having a solipsist significance.) Again in Ch. IV, commenting on Karika 54, Sankara says: “Thus for reasons already stated the mind is verily of the essence of the SELF. External objects are not caused by the mind, nor is the mind the product of external objects. That is because all (external) entities are mere appearances in Consciousness. Thus neither the so-called effect comes from the (so-called) cause nor the cause from the effect. In this way is reiterated the absolute non-evolution of causality. In other words the knowers of Brahman declare the absence of causality with regard to Atman.” Again in verse 64 of IV chapter in the commentary Sankara says: “These objects perceived by the mind of the dreamer have no existence outside the mind of the person who dreams about them. It is the mind alone which assumes the form of many diversified objects. Similarly the mind of the dreamer is perceived by the dreamer alone. Therefore there is no separate thing called mind which is apart from the dreamer himself.” (Swami Nikhilananda in his notes makes the point still clearer. He writes “The mind of a man is not perceived by any other being but himself. The perceiving ego is also created by the mind. The ego and the non-ego come into existence together. Therefore the charge of solipsism cannot be leveled against Vedanta.”) Sankara and Gaudapada use in many places the term ‘mind’ thus as an equivalent of Atman. In the commentary on Karika 35, chapter III, Sankara again reiterates the same idea: “When the mind becomes free from all ideas of the perceiver and the perceived the dual evils caused by ignorance, it verily becomes one with the Supreme and non-dual Brahman."
Gaudapada and Sankara speak highly of the necessity of sadhana for one who is a candidate for the highest knowledge. The lines “Nanirodho, nachonnati” etc. are not spoken with reference to the sadhakas. To those who make efforts in spiritual life the advice they give in (Karika 41, Ch. III) is very interesting. “The mind can be brought under control only by an unrelenting effort like that which is required to empty an ocean, drop by drop, with the help of a blade of kusha grass” - 41. The purpose of this Karika is to impress on the aspirant the immensity of the task he has undertaken, the task of transforming the jeeva bhava into Brahma Swaroopa. But he need not feel on reading this Karika that he is embarking on a hopeless adventure. We find in the life and realisation of Maharshi the fullest confirmation of the fact that the Truth Eternal is an attainable reality, and it is none other than the Self, the core of one’s own being. Maharshi declares that Realisation is not only possible but is the easiest thing to achieve, provided one has the right understanding and the true spirit of dedication. Karikas 42, 43 and 44 offer valuable hints to the aspirant, which are similar to what he finds in ‘The Talks’ in Sat-Darshana Bhashya. (Vide also Maharshi’s Gospel Books I and II.) The Karikas referred to above are as follows: “The mind distracted by desires and enjoyments, as also the mind enjoying pleasure in oblivion (trance-like condition), should be brought under discipline by the pursuit of proper means, for the state of oblivion is as harmful as desires.” - 42. “The mind should be turned back from the enjoyment of pleasures; remember that all this is attended with sorrow. If it be remembered that everything is the unborn Brahman, the born (duality) will not be seen.” - 43. “If the mind becomes inactive in a state of oblivion, awaken it again. If it is distracted, bring it back to the state of tranquillity. (In the intermediate state) know the mind containing with it desires in a potential form. If the mind has attained to the state of equilibrium, then do not disturb it again.” - 44. It will not be out of place to quote in detail the commentary to the 43rd Karika – “What is the way of disciplining the mind? It is thus replied.

Remember that all duality is caused by Avidya or illusion, and therefore afflicted with misery. Thereby dissuade the mind from seeking enjoyments produced by desires. In other words, withdraw the mind from all dual objects by impressing upon it the idea of complete non-attachment. Realise from the teaching of the scriptures and Acharyas that all this verily is the changeless Brahman. (The italics are ours.) Then you will not see anything to the contrary, that is, duality, for it does not exist.” It must be noted on passing that the mind that is referred to here is the individual mind which the sadhaka is to control. A conversation I had with Maharshi about the way to interpret the 33rd verse of the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, brings out his attitude towards sadhana in a very clear manner. There the Lord says: “Even a wise man acts in accordance with his own nature; beings follow nature; what can restraint do?” Apparently this verse is very disheartening. Maharshi in explaining this verse made a distinction between
knowledge and Jnana. Bare knowledge as an intellectual attainment will not change character. That may give a lot of ‘information’ but will not bring about any ‘transformation’; without aiming at this transformation, if one dares to confront nature, conserving all the animal appetites that flesh is heir to, that will be catastrophic for the sadhaka. The Lord has said in verse 14 of the seventh chapter, “Verily, this divine illusion of MINE, constituted by the gunas is difficult to cross over.” Maharshi then explained that nature has two aspects and each stage has its laws. The lower is described in verse 34 of the same chapter immediately after the note of despair struck in verse 33. Here the Lord describes one of the laws that govern the lower nature. “Attachment and aversion of the senses for their respective objects are natural;” and for sadhakas the warning is forcibly given, “Let none come under their sway; they are his foes.” Jnana is the realisation that takes one to the higher plane of nature. There I asked him whether it will be appropriate to describe its functioning along the lines of the Gita, At the end of many births, the man of wisdom takes refuge in ME, realising that all this is Vasudeva - the innermost SELF very rare is that great soul. Maharshi unhesitatingly said that is the truth. I then told him how Mr. V. Subrahmanya Iyer of Mysore often told me that without the explanation of this sarvam no philosophy can be valid. The life of Maharshi amply illustrates that he lives the full significance of this philosophy of Totality: in him belief and behaviour are at-one-ment. The interpretation of ‘sarvam’ of the Gita in Maharshi is through his moral outlook and conduct; and this moral appeal of Maharshi is the greatest encouragement to all those who desire to follow the spiritual path along this particular tradition, of which he is the living custodian. This moral appeal again is the fruit of his metaphysical realisation. Morality and conduct in Vedanta are inseparable from metaphysics.

We often hear it said that many of the devotees of Maharshi saw him in the state of ecstasy. I do not contradict their interpretation of Maharshi as they saw him. I would like here only to give a certain Vedantic background to his attainment of Sahajasthiti which I think should not be interpreted in terms of ecstasy. Ecstasy is a religious experience. The anubhava of Sahajasthiti is, on the other hand, metaphysical. Ecstasy is attained in the spiritual union with the Godhead. Union is possible when a difference is conceded between the units that afterwards enter into relation. But Sahajasthiti is the state natural to the SELF when all the superimpositions are thrown away, that is, in the language of the Gita when one becomes “satisfied in the SELF alone by the SELF” — verse 55, Ch. I. Meister Eckhart in another language expresses the same conception thus: “For if you want the kernel you must break the shell, and therefore if you want to discover nature’s nakedness, you must destroy its symbols.” (The italics are ours.) Let us see what Sankara has to say with regard to this topic. In the case of a Jnani the text “he is merged in Brahman,” as in the mantra in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, should be interpreted, according to Sankara, in a figurative sense. Sankara, in commenting on the passage, concludes by saying, “Therefore the Atman by itself has no difference due to bondage or liberation, knowledge or ignorance; for it is admitted to be always the same and homogeneous by nature. Those who consider the reality of the Self to be different, reduce the scriptures dealing with bondage and liberation to mere plausible statements, would dare to find the foot-prints of birds in the sky to pull it with their clenched hands........ But we can do no such thing. We hold that it is the definite conclusion of the Upanishads that we are nothing but the Atman, the Brahman that is always the same, homogeneous, one without a second, unchanging, birthless, undecaying, immortal, deathless and free from fear. Therefore the statement ‘He is merged in Brahman’ - (this text) — is but a figurative one, - (the italics are ours) - meaning the cessation, as a result of Knowledge, of the continuous chain of bodies for one who has held an opposite view.”1 Again 2 it is stated as follows: “The Knowledge of Brahman too means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous

1 Page 726, translated by Swami Madhavananda, Mayavathi, 1934 edn.

2 Vide Page 746.ഊthings (such as body).

The relation of identity with it has not to be established, for it is already there. Everybody has that identity with IT, for the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than THAT should stop. When the
identification with other things is gone, the natural identity with one’s own SELF becomes isolated. This is expressed by the statement that the SELF is known. In ITSELF, IT is unknowablenot comprehended through any means.” From the above statements we should understand that the state of Sahajasthiti or kaivalya cannot be equated with the union attained in any particular mystic condition. Whatever may be the mystic value of these transcendental states described in the ecstasies, a Jnani, - not denying of course the possibilities of these states - remains completely detached from them; for he knows that every Éav or mode of experience, material or mystic, is the same manifestation of Atman, and in every aspect of manifestation it is the same Brahman in action. His mind does not yearn for any special kind of experience. He has nothing to achieve nor has he anything to be achieved through others.

He is the person in whom there will be no tendency at all to proselytise. He has no mission to achieve. According to Sankara in the Nirvanashtaka he alone can say “I have no death nor fear, no distinction of rank or class. I have no father, no mother, no friend, no master nor disciple, I am Absolute Knowledge and Bliss. I am the ALL-PERVADING SELF, I am the ALL-PERVADING SELF”. In the presence of Maharshi this verily is the impression that a seeker of the Vedantic Tradition gets. He is amongst us. We offer him our salutations.