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Easy Steps to Vedanta

by Swami Sivananda

1. Adhyasa

The Jiva falsely superimposes the body and other limiting adjuncts which are not Self upon himself and identifies himself with them. This identification constitutes bondage. The freedom from this identification is Moksha. That which causes this identification is Avidya or nescience. That which removes this identification is Vidya. Attainment of knowledge of the Self eradicates this Avidya and its effects. The Svarupa of Moksha is the attainment of Supreme Bliss and removal of all kinds of sufferings.

From illusion springs separation, difference, duality, manifoldness and variety. Illusion is born of ignorance. All sorrows, tribulations, miseries and troubles have their root in ignorance. Ignorance creates illusion and separateness. Therefore destroy the ignorance by the sword of knowledge of the Self and become free.

Adhyasa means superimposition. Snake is superimposed on the rope. Silver is superimposed on mother of pearl. This is Adhyasa. Adhyasa, Kalpana, Bhranti, Bhrama are synonymous terms. Adhyasa is mistaken ascription or imputation to something of an essential nature or attributes not belonging to it. This world and body are superimposed upon Brahman or the Atman.

Just as a stick burning at one end, when waved round, causes an illusion of a circle of fire (Alata Chakra), so also is the case with the multiplicity of this phenomenal universe. The circle of fire is an illusion. Similarly, this relative world is also an illusion. The only Reality is Brahman which is the constant witnessing subject, which is the support on substratum for this world. This illusion is due to Avidya. When Avidya is destroyed by attaining knowledge of the Self, names and forms will vanish. You will behold the Self only everywhere.

2. Nature of Brahman

What is neither short nor long, neither that nor this, neither that much nor this much - that should be understood as Brahman. by knowing Brahman everything else becomes known; there remains nothing else to be known.

The ultimate Reality is Brahman or the Supreme Self. Brahman is one Being without a second. Brahman is all-that-which-is. It is that from which the world originates, that in which the world exists and that in which the world is dissolved. It is infinite, eternal, changeless, self-luminous and Absolute. Time and space are within it. It is indivisible homogeneous essence.

Atman is always the witnessing subject. It can never be the object. The subject is the universal Self whose nature is intelligence (Chit). The object comprises whatever that is of a non-intelligent nature (Jada), viz., bodies with their senses and the objects of the senses.

3. Sadhana

When you attend a musical performance you also begin to shake your head and keep Tala with your hands or feet although you are a witness only. Even so the Jiva, though he is a witness in reality, plunges himself in worldly enjoyments when he begins to taste a bit of it.

Severe knocks and blows alone can induce Vairagya in man, turn him towards God and make him give up the clinging to wife, children, property, etc. Pain is a great blessing in disguise. Pain is an eye-opener.

Just as the witness of a chair is different from the chair and is not the chair, so is the witness of this body. The nature of the witness is reality, bliss and knowledge. The chair and the body are insentient. Know, O Ram! Therefore that you are not the body, you are the witnessing consciousness or intelligence.

O followers of the philosophy of flesh! Give up this clinging to this body, wife and children. Try to know the inner immortal Lord of life who dwells in this body, who is the inner Ruler, by whom you live, by whom the senses and intellect are illumined. Do not mistake the transient body for the immortal, changeless, self-luminous Atman.

Just as a mother, in order to pacify her child that is weeping, places before it a plantain fruit or biscuit or a sweetmeat, so also the spiritual preceptor pacifies those who are weeping in the Samsara on account of the three kinds of fever, by placing before them the most delicious and valuable spiritual food, viz., the great sentences of the Upanishads or Mahavakyas which proclaim about the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. They say: My beloved children! Weep no more. You are in essence the Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman. Give up identification with this perishable body. Tat Tvam Asi, Thou art that. Realise the Self and rejoice.

Understand the right significance of the Tat Tvam Asi Mahavakya or the great sentence of the Upanishads. The knowledge relating to the identity of the individual soul and the supreme soul that arises from great sentences of the Upanishads like 'Tat Tvam Asi' (Thou art That) is the means to emancipation.

If you have a clear knowledge of the five sheaths, you will not be deluded. Therefore try to understand the nature of the five sheaths and their functions first. That which is distinct from the five sheaths and their functions is Sat-Chit-Ananda Atman, your own Self. This Atman is immanent in all beings. It exists everywhere and at all times. Negate, sublate or eliminate the sheaths or illusory Upadhis and identify yourself with the support of these sheaths, the one homogeneous essence, the Immortal Self.

You simply waste your energy and time by entering into hot discussion regarding the questions: Why God created this world? Is this world real or unreal? It would matter nothing to you whether the world be real or not. You will not gain anything substantial by entering into such controversies. You will have to forget the world if you want to realise the Self. You will have to dive deep into the chambers of your heart by withdrawing the mind and the outgoing senses to rest in the Supreme Self. Give up, therefore, these useless discussions and proceed straightaway in the quest of the Self and in its realisation. Instead of counting the number of leaves in a tree, try to eat the fruit directly. Try to enjoy the eternal bliss of the Self by direct realisation. This is wisdom.

The moss that is momentarily displaced in a tank resumes its original position in the twinkling of an eye. Similarly Maya envelops even the wise, if they are careless even for a minute. Therefore sleepless vigilance is necessary in the spiritual path. The proverb goes; There is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Before you begin to eat the fruit of wisdom, the monkey Maya will snatch it away from your hand. Even if you swallow it, it may get stuck to your throat. Therefore you will have to be ever vigilant and careful till you attain the Bhuma or the highest realisation. You should not stop your Sadhana falsely thinking that you have reached the goal.

There are three main stages in the path of Jnana: (1) the Sadhana stage; (2) glimpses, Alpam; (3) Sahajavastha or native state in which one is firmly established in the Brahmic consciousness or his own Sat-Chit-Ananda Svarupa. Do not stop the Sadhana when you get the glimpses (Alpam). Continue till you are established in Sahajavastha (Bhuma).

4. Nature of a Jivanmukta

Just as you think when you look at the pictures of fruits, flame, knife, trees, rivers, etc., that they are false, so also the Jivanmukta or liberated sage feels when he looks at the world that all the forms are false.

When you behold a large mass of people in a great festival you simply see them, you have no attachment for anybody. Even so a Jivanmukta beholds the world. He has no attachment for anyone.

In the vast ocean of Brahman full of nectar of homogeneous bliss, the Jivanmukta neither sees nor hears. He remains in his own nature of Sat-Chit-Anandarupa. He sees his Atman as secondless through Nirvikalpa Samadhi. His vision or experience is beyond description. He has attained supreme quiescence. He is ever happy. He is of a pure nature. He has realised himself to be Chaitanya or pure consciousness alone. He is ever resting at perfect ease in the pleasure-garden of his own Atman.

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