Obstacles for Spiritual Progress
Obstacles for Spiritual Progress II
In these series, we are now discussing the obstacles to our spiritual progress. Krishna says in Gita- 4th Ch. Verse 40 that there are three main obstacles for spiritual progress: – 1. avidya (ignorance) 2. ashraddhaa (lack of faith) 3. samshaya (doubts about the goal and the means). Shraddhaa or faith is most essential for knowledge as Krishna says shraddhaavan labhate jnaanam. The major obstacle for spiritual knowledge is therefore the lack of shraddhaa that Krishna points out again and again. We discussed in the last post that mahaavaakyas are not descriptive type but introduction type in the sense that as in any introduction, it introduces trueself that is directly and immediately present. In the introductory statements, the knowledge should be direct and immediate like introducing to someone that I am so and so. However, in the case of mahaavaakya, the knowledge does not take place immediately for many because of the lack of faith in the pramANa or in the Vedanta mahaavaakya that shows the identity of the self and the universal self. It is like introducing a street beggar with torn clothes as a maharaja of a country. It is hard believe that one who is begging for bits and pieces of happiness on the streets of sense objects is the very source of infinite happiness. (Interestingly in North India a swami is addressed as maharaj, unless he proves himself otherwise, while in South India a swami is taken as a vagabond unless he proves himself to be otherwise). The essential problem is the seeker of happiness itself is the source of happiness.
This aspect is discussed below taking the missing 10th-man story as an example, where the knowledge is also direct and immediate, since the words are also of introduction type. That is, the missing 10th is directly and immediately present, when the teacher says – you are the 10th man – tat tvam asi.
Lack of Shraddhaa that I am the missing10th-man: In the missing 10th-man story also, the seeker himself is the sought. As long as the seeker and the sought are one and the same, any amount of seeking will end up in failure, since in the very seeking one has already resolved that the sought is not there where the seeker is. This very conclusion that the 10th man is not here and is lost hinders the discovery of the 10th man, since one is looking outside for the missing 10th man. 10th man is neither inside the seeker nor outside the seeker, but he is the very seeker himself. Discovery of the 10th man is hindered because of the following reasons:
One is mechanically receiving the message from a teacher. His mind is not abiding in the knowledge given by the teaching that you are the 10th man that you are seeking. In this case, the seeker is busily absorbed in searching for the 10th man outside, thinking that he must be somewhere out-there. That very conclusion will hinder the discovery of the 10th man. He is objectifying the 10th man as someone else out there. Thus, he has preconceived notions about the missing 10th man,that he is not anywhere around here, but somewhere out there, outside the range of one’s vision. For, if he is inside the range of vision, he would have seen the 10th man. The seeker is not paying attention to the teaching because his mind is preoccupied in looking for the 10th man outside as an entity different from himself. In addition, he is very much engulfed in sorrow for not finding the 10th man, and concluding that he is lost. Thus, he is busy objectifying the 10th man and trying to locate him somewhere. His very desire to locate the 10th man out in front as recognizable entity separate from the nine that he is seeing right now, prevents him to see himself as the 10th man.
Similarly, everyone is searching for happiness, whether he is a religions person or not, whether he is a Vedantin or not. Yet everyone understands that happiness does not come from any object since the same object does not give happiness to everybody. Yet, we go after the sense objects starting from a hot cup of coffee/tea in the morning. One tries to accumulate wealth so that he can be happy while the other tries to get rid of so that he can be happy. We go after wealth for our security, then, we are worried about the security of the wealth that we have acquired.
In the case of the self-knowledge, we are busily engaged in other pursuits that hopefully give us happiness that we seek. These are listed as the four-fold bondages; Possessions, Obligations, Relations and Transactions (PORT – the term coined by Swami Paramarthanandaji). Hence Krishna says– asaktiH anabhiShvangaH putradaara gRihaadiShu| – for the knowledge to take place the mind should be free from any longing attachments towards the sense-objects or beings. Broadly there are two types of dependents; those that depend on us for their happiness and those on whom we depend for our happiness. Attachments (or aversions) arise due to our likes and dislikes for objects and beings. There is confusion between attachment and love. Any dependence on things and beings for our happiness is attachment, while love is we let (not demand) others to depend on us for their happiness. However if we are happy making others to depend on us, then again it leads to attachments, since our happiness depends on other’s dependence. A child depends on its parents for its security and happiness. However the growth of the child involves making him an independent person.
In essence, we have to get rid of all the attachments that result in raaga and dweShas or likes and dislikes, towards those that give pleasures and pains (shukam and duHkham) what Krishna calls as pair of opposites or dvandvaaH. Krishna gives examples – hot and cold (sEtam and uShNam) at the body level, pleasure and pain (sukham and duHkham) at mind level and praise and insult (mAnam and apamAnam or avamAnam) at the intellect level. Because these distract the mind, they contribute to the lack of shraddhaa or faith in the teaching of mahaavaakya. At the BMI level these are difficult to avoid. At the same time we should be vigilant not to get carried away by them. Hence scripture says it is a razor-edge path – kshurasya dhaaraa. However, they are all temporary and Krishna says – aagamaa paayino anityaaH, tan tithikshava bhaarata| – they come and go, dictated by prArabda. Therefore, considering them impermanent and cannot be avoided, we have to forbear them, and keep the mind not to get carried away by those temporary inconveniences. None can avoid them, since praarabda brings in what is destined – that includes all all ups and downs in life. For this, we have to develop an attitude of karma yoga and prasaada bhuddi or acceptance without any reaction, which helps in developing the samatvam or equanimity – samatvam yogam uchyate – says Krishna. With titiksha or forbearance, one develops a frame of mind which can develop shraddhaa needed for knowledge.
Looking for Brahman out there or objectification of Brahman and/or a statement that I have studied Vedanta or have knowledge of Vedanta but now I want to experience Brahman – indicate that one has not understood the truth of Brahman. Here I am reminded of JK’s statement – it is not an understanding as an understanding as a thought, but an understanding as an understanding as a fact. Until then, mahaavaakya is not understood. A similar statement is made by a student of Kena Up.
In the missing 10th man story, the one, who has desire to know the 10th man, has already negated, in counting all the nine people, as they are not the missing 10th-man. To him, who is desperately looking for the missing 10th man, the teacher has already assured that the 10th man exists; and hence the search for the 10th man is not going to be futile. In counting the 9 people, one has already negated that they are not the 10th man. Thus no. 1 man means he is not the dashamaH or the 10th man. No. 2 is not the 10th man. Thus by neti, neti or not No. 1, not No. 2, etc., he has already negated all the men that are countable, and there is still a hunger as well as anxiety to know the whereabouts of the 10th man. Interestingly, in the very counting of the nine and in dismissing that they are not the tenth, the 10th man is inherent in the counting, since he is the counter present in all the counting of nine-men. That which is there inherently in all the counting, yet different from the counted ones, is the very counter that the counter missed to count. The 10th man is inherently present in all the negation of the first, second, .,. ninth man as not the 10th. When the teacher says you are the missing 10th man, the knowledge can be direct and immediate as in the introductory statement, where counter encounters the missing man directly and immediately, provided he pays attention to the teaching and stops looking for the 10th man elsewhere where he can never find him. I want to know the 10th man and I am the only one left after excluding the nine persons as not the 10th . After excluding the nine, there is no one else left out there in the world of plurality to exclude from the list as not the 10th. He has done his saadhana by rejecting, neti, neti, of all the countable ones, namely1 to 9 persons as na dashamaH – as not the 10th person. He is mentally distressed also indicative of samsaara. Fortunately or unfortunately he happened to be the 10th man. When the teacher introduces the 10th man as you are the 10th man, words are direct and definitely produce doubtless knowledge since all other possibilities for being 10th are already eliminated. He does not have to look for the 10th man any more or meditate to experience the 10th man.
Does he have to do Nidhidhyaasana that I am the 10th man to discover the 10th man, since the scriptures says so? He does not have to say now I know where the 10th man is and I need to sit down and do meditation on the 10th man to recognize him. The knowledge is immediate and direct when the teacher introduces the 10th man by pointing to the person as you are the missing 10th person. In the discovery of the 10th man one also recognizes that 10th man was never lost at any time in the past when everybody thought that he was last. The problem for not finding 10th man is only because that everybody objectifying the 10th man as something different from the subject who is doing the counting. Hence the fundamental problem in the lack of recognition is the very objectification of the subject.
In the same way, the Vedantic student, after discarding everything else as neti neti, not this, not this, what is left is only the existing-conscious entity, the self that he is that he forgot to recognize. In the very rejection of not this, the sought is also there as the subject that is doing the negation. In essence, he does not have to negate anything to discover oneself, since he is there in the very negating process. Hence, negation of all that come under the category of this is only to drop the incorrect identification of the subject, I, with object, this. I cannot really negate this as this is needed for living in this transactional world, whether I live as a parivrajaka or wondering monk or as a gRihastha or house holder. In essence, having this is not a real problem but taking this as myself is the problem. Hence thinking that I should drop all this including the mind will only result in giving more reality to this than what this deserves. Therefore negation of this has to be understood as not dismissing this physically, but cognitively understanding that this that I see has no absolute reality or understanding that all this is mithyaa. Taking this as myself arose due to ignorance of myself and therefore negations here cannot be done without appropriate knowledge of myself. Hence another misunderstanding that needs to be disposed is, negation of this does not necessarily result in knowing myself completely. The negation only leads to knowing that I am a subject and not an object, this. Knowing myself fully and completely involves knowing that I am full and complete by myself and there is nothing other than myself – essentially aham brhaamasmi or I am infinite. This has to be understood cognitively using the BMI only.
Self-realization is not an experience that I am longing for. Brahman being infinite cannot but be experienced in every experience. Experience itself is finite since it involves the triad, experiencer, experienced and experiencing. Hence self-realization is not an experience but recognition that I am the very substratum for all experiences. It is again a cognitive understanding that I am there in all and all in me – sarva bhuutastam aatmaanam sarva bhuutaanica aatmani. That understaning has to be an understanding as a fact than as a thought.
Hence, I do not have to wait to experience Brahman, but clearly understand that the self that I am is the self in all. This understanding comes from the mahaavakyas of Vedanta. The mahavakayas are nothing but the statement of identity of the self in me is self in all. These statements of identity are provided by Vedanta and my faith or shraddhaa in those statements as valid provides me to cognitively recognize that as a fact. In that sense only Vedanta is pamANa or means of knowledge. Experientially, however, I never see oneness of myself with the world that have rejected as I am not this. Only cognitively, I have an understanding the oneness that pervades the subject I and the object, this, in spite of seeing and cognizing the differences in all these appearances.
Hence intense faith in the mahavakyas namely prajnaanam brahma, consciousness is Brahaman, tat tvam asi, you are that, aham brahmaasmi, I am infiniteness, and aham attam brahma, the self that I am is the self in all, are true. In addition, I should have clear understanding that I do not have anything that is needed other than this knowledge for myself realization. For the knowledge gained to become firm or abiding in spite of unavoidable transactions with the world of plurality where raaga and dveshaas at transactional level are unavoidable even for a jnaani, nidhidhyaasana on the knowledge gained is required, as prescribed by the scriptures- nidhidhyaasitavyaH. Nidhidhyaasana is not going to give me a new knowledge, but helps me to internalize the self-knowledge gained through shravana and manana. In that sense only parivrAjakatvam or sanyaasa, etc., are helpful for abiding in the knowledge already gained so that the mind can get established in the knowledge by reducing PORT, possessions, obligations, relations and transactions to a bare minimum required for the BMI to continue its course of existence that is destined.