Practice Abhyasa

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1. What is the method of practice?

As the Self of a person who tries to attain Self-realization is not different from him and as there is nothing other than or superior to him to be attained by him, Self-realization being only the realization of one's own nature, the seeker of Liberation realizes, without doubts or misconceptions, his real nature by distinguishing the eternal from the transient, and never swerves from his natural state. This is known as the practice of knowledge. This is the enquiry leading to Self-realization.

2. Can this path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?

This is suitable only for the ripe souls. The rest should follow different methods according to the state of their minds.

3. What are the other methods?

They are (i) stuti, (ii) japa, (iii) dhyana, (iv) yoga,(v) jnana, etc.

(i) stuti is singing the praises of the Lord with a great feeling of devotion.

(ii) japa is uttering the names of the gods or sacred mantras like Om either mentally or verbally.(While following the methods of stuti and japa the mind will sometimes be concentrated (lit. closed) and sometimes diffused (lit. open). The vagaries of the mind will not be evident to those who follow these methods).

(iii)dhyana denotes the repetition of the names, etc., mentally (japa) with feelings of devotion. In this method the state of the mind will be understood easily. For the mind does not become concentrated and diffused simultaneously. When one is in dhyana it does not contact the objects of the senses, and when it is in contact with the objects it is not in dhyana. Therefore those who are in this state can observe the vagaries of the mind then and there and by stopping the mind from thinking other thoughts, fix it in dhyana. Perfection in dhyana is the state of abiding in the Self (lit., abiding in the form of 'that' tadakaranilai) . As meditation functions in an exceedingly subtle manner at the source of the mind it is not difficult to perceive its rise and subsidence.

(iv) yoga: The source of the breath is the same as that of the mind; therefore the subsidence of either leads effortlessly to that of the other. The practice of stilling the mind through breath control (pranayama) is called yoga. Fixing their minds on psychic centres such as the sahasrara (lit. the thousand-petalled lotus) yogis remain any length of time without awareness of their bodies. As long as this state continues they appear to be immersed in some kind of joy. But when the mind which has become tranquil emerges (becomes active again) it resumes its worldly thoughts. It is therefore necessary to train it with the help of practices like dhyana, whenever it becomes externalised. It will then attain a state in which there is neither subsidence nor emergence.

(v) jnana is the annihilation of the mind in which it is made to assume the form of the Self through the constant practice of dhyana or enquiry (vichara). The extinction of the mind is the state in which there is a cessation of all efforts. Those who are established in this state never swerve from their true state. The terms 'silence' (mouna) and inaction refer to this state alone.

NOTE:

(1) All practices are followed only with the object of concentrating the mind. As all the mental activities like remembering, forgetting, desiring, hating, attracting, discarding, etc., are modifications of the mind, they cannot be one's true state. Simple, changeless being is one's true nature. Therefore to know the truth of one's being and to be it, is known as release from bondage and the destruction of the knot (granthi nasam). Until this state of tranquillity of mind is firmly attained, the practice of unswerving abidance in the Self and keeping the mind unsoiled by various thoughts, is essential for an aspirant.

(2) Although the practices for achieving strength of mind are numerous, all of them achieve the same end. For it can be seen that whoever concentrates his mind on any object, will, on the cessation of all mental concepts, ultimately remain merely as that object. This is called successful meditation (dhyana siddhi). Those who follow the path of enquiry realize that the mind which remains at the end of the enquiry is Brahman. Those who practise meditation realize that the mind which remains at the end of the meditation is the object of their meditation. As the result is the same in either case it is the duty of aspirants to practise continuously either of these methods till the goal is reached.

4. Is the state of 'being still' a state involving effort or effortless?

It is not an effortless state of indolence. All mundane activities which are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the Self (atma vyavahara) or remaining still inwardly is intense activity which is performed with the entire mind and without break.

Maya (delusion or ignorance) which cannot be destroyed by any other act is completely destroyed by this intense activity which is called 'silence' (mouna).

5. What is the nature of maya?

Maya is that which makes us regard as non-existent the Self, the Reality, which is always and everywhere present, all-pervasive and self-luminous, and as existent the individual soul (jiva), the world (jagat), and God (para) which have been conclusively proved to be non-existent at all times and places.

6. As the Self shines fully of its own accord why is it not generally recognized like the other objects of the world by all persons?

Wherever particular objects are known it is the Self which has known itself in the form of those objects. For what is known as knowledge or awareness is only the patency of the Self (atma sakti). The Self is the only sentient object. There is nothing apart from the Self. If there are such objects they are all insentient and therefore cannot either know themselves or mutually know one another. It is because the Self does not know its true nature in this manner that it seems to be immersed and struggling in the ocean of birth (and death) in the form of the individual soul.

7. Although the Lord is all-pervasive it appears, from passages like "adorning him through His Grace ", that He can be known only through His grace. How then can the individual soul by its own efforts attain self-realization in he absence of the Lord's Grace?

As the Lord denotes the Self and as Grace means the Lord's presence or revelation, there is no time when the Lord remains unknown. If the light of the sun is invisible to the owl it is only the fault of that bird and not of the sun. Similarly can the unawareness by ignorant persons of the Self which is always of the nature of awareness be other than their own fault? How can it be the fault of the Self? It is because Grace is of the very nature of the Lord that He is well-known as 'the blessed Grace'. Therefore the Lord, whose nature itself is Grace, does not have to bestow His Grace. Nor is there any particular time for bestowing His Grace.

8. What part of the body is the abode of the Self?

The heart on the right side of the chest is generally indicated. This is because we usually point to the right side of the chest when we refer to ourselves. Some say that the sahasrara (the thousand-petalled lotus) is the abode of the Self. But if that were true the head should not fall forward when we go to sleep or faint.

9. What is the nature of the heart? The sacred texts describing it say:

Between the two nipples, below the chest and above the abdomen, there are six organs of different colours*. One of them resembling the bud of a water lily and situated two digits to the right is the heart. It is inverted and within it is a tiny orifice which is the seat of dense darkness (ignorance) full of desires. All the psychic nerves (nadis) depend upon it. It is the abode of the vital forces, the mind and the light (of consciousness). (See Appendix to Reality in Forty Verses 18 -19).

But, although it is described thus, the meaning of the word heart (hrdayam) is the Self (atman). As it is denoted by the terms existence, consciousness, bliss, eternal and plenum (sat, chit, anandam, nityam, purnam) it has no differences such as exterior and interior or up and down. That tranquil state in which all thoughts come to an end is called the state of the Self. When it is realized as it is, there is no scope for discussions about its location inside the body or outside. * These are not the same as the Chakras.

10. Why do thoughts of many objects arise in the mind even when there is no contact with external objects?

All such thoughts are due to latent tendencies (purva samskaras). They appear only to the individual consciousness (jiva) which has forgotten its real nature and become externalised. Whenever particular things are perceived, the enquiry "Who is it that sees them"? should be made; they will then disappear at once.

11. How do the triple factors (i.e., knower, known and knowledge), which are absent in deep sleep, samadhi, etc., manifest themselves in the Self (in the states of waking and dreaming)?

From the Self there arise in succession

(i) Chidabhasa (reflected consciousness) which is a kind of luminosity.

(ii) Jiva (the individual consciousness) or the seer or the first concept.

(iii) Phenomena, that is the world.

12. Since the Self is free from the notions of knowledge and ignorance how can it be said to pervade the entire body in the shape of sentience or to impart sentience to the senses?

Wise men say that there is a connection between the source of the various psychic nerves and the Self, that this is the knot of the heart, that the connection between the sentient and the insentient will exist until this is cut asunder with the aid of true knowledge, that just as the subtle and invisible force of electricity travels through wires and does many wonderful things, so the force of the Self also travels through the psychic nerves and, pervading the entire body, imparts sentience to the senses, and that if this knot is cut the Self will remain as it always is, without any attributes.

13. How can there be a connection between the Self which is pure knowledge and the triple factors which are relative knowledge?

This is, in a way, like the working of a cinema as shown below:-

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