Aparokshanubhuti by Adi Sankara- Advaita Vedanta in a Capsule

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Knowledge of Brahman
The real knowledge and the real wisdom are defined next.  Sankara says:
1.I am verily Brahman, being equanimous, quiescent, and by  nature absolute Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss.
2.I am without any change, without any form, free from all  blemish and decay.
3.I am not subjected to any disease; I am beyond all  comprehension, free from all alternatives and all-pervading.
4.I am without any attribute or activity; I am eternal,  ever free, and imperishable.
5.I am free from all impurity; I am immovable, unlimited, holy,  undecaying, and immortal.

I am not the body which is non-existence itself. I am the  Pure Consciousness, Brahman, Purusha. This is called true Knowledge by the wise.

The Atman is Brahman as there is not a single  characteristic differentiating the two. In other words, there are no two  entities called Atman and Brahman. It is the same entity Atman that is called  sometimes Brahman. When a person makes an enquiry into the real nature of the  external world he arrives at one conclusion that is Brahman. When he enquires  about himself he is lead to Atman wherefrom the external world emanated as we  have discussed earlier. Thus he realizes that what he has believed all along as  Brahman, the substratum of the universe, is but his own Self, Atman, he  himself. So it is said in Mandukya Upanishad (2) ‘All this is verily Brahman,  this Atman is Brahaman’. Sometimes Atman is also called Purusha. Sankara then  argues that even on a rational basis, ‘I’ is different from the physical body.  He establishes that even if we don’t believe in the scriptures, the very  intellect that is given to us will tell us that we are not the body but  something beyond the body.

Thus by the differentiation between the body and the  Atman, the Self, the idea that ‘the body is the Self, Atman’ is negated. If the  body is not the Self, does it mean that the body is a separate entity from the Self?  This doubt as to whether the body is a separate entity from the Atman is now  clarified. It is stated that the body has no existence independent of the Atman  just as the waves do not exist independently of water. In fact the Atman alone  exists and it is through ignorance that one sees it as appearing in the forms  of the body and the like just as water alone exists but we look at it as waves  or ocean. Then what about Consciousness?

It is answered “No division in Consciousness is admissible at any time as it is always  one and the same. Even the individuality of the Jiva must be known as false,  like the delusion of a snake in a rope”.

In darkness a rope lying on the road is mistaken as a  snake and as a result we suffer from fear. The prime cause for fear is thus the  delusion or ignorance about the real object. Sankara says that Consciousness  (Brahman) enlightens and enlivens everything in the universe. It is The One, The  Absolute and which is without any parts. It is Indivisible just as air contained  in a small mug or medium sized jar or  a  large bucket is one and the same as it is pervaded everywhere. It follows that  the containers are many while that which is contained is one which is  indivisible. So too, the containers of consciousness may vary like a human  being, a bird or an animal but the contained i.e. Consciousness as such remains  always uniform and a single entity without any distinction or division.

From this angle, the individuality of Jiva which  is consciousness in a human body is also false as in the case of delusion of a  snake in a rope. So long as a person is in ignorance, he thinks himself as a  jiva, having an individuality of its own apart from Brahman. But with the dawn  of real knowledge, he realizes himself as one with Brahman and this jivahood  appears to him as nothing but an illusion of a snake on the rope.

As through the ignorance of the real nature of the rope  the very same rope appears as a snake, so too pure Consciousness appears in the  form of the phenomenal universe without undergoing any change in itself. The  effect is not different from the cause as a pot is not different from clay of  which it is made. The names and the forms we observe in the effect which  differentiate it from the cause are just a convention and are found  non-existent when their nature is enquired into. Hence it is declared that the  material cause of the universe is Brahman and so the whole universe is Brahman.

Just as the rope is the substratum of the illusion of a  snake, so Brahman is the substratum of all the names and forms we notice as the  universe. These names and forms (universe) are no doubt illusory, but even  illusory things require a substratum for them to be projected upon just as the  motion picture in a cinema hall though illusory requires a screen to be projected  upon. Just as the ornaments made out of gold acquire the quality of gold, the  universe which is a being born of Brahman has always the nature of Brahman.

‘When duality is perceived through ignorance one sees  another, one smells another, but when everything is identified as Atman, how  can one see another or smell another? Brih.Upanishad (iv.5.15)’. When the mind  attains that state, when one realizes all as one Atman no delusion or sorrow  arises on account of absence of duality. Therefore the Mahavakya of  Brih.Upanishad says “This Atman is Brahman”.(ii.5.19)

It follows that the idea of pervaded and pervading is  also illusory as there is no room for any distinction between the cause and the  effect i.e. Brahman and the universe. Therefore unless a person realizes the  non-dual Atman (Brahman) there is no escape for him from the cycle of birth and  death.

Sankara illustrates the above discussion about the unity  of the Universe and Brahman as also about the Atman appearing as the body  through ignorance by putting forth numerous examples of our ordinary day to day  life. It is really highly illuminating to read all these beautiful verses. He  concludes this masterly exposition with a declaration that, “Through ignorance  arises in Atman the delusion of the body which again through Self-realization,  disappears in the Supreme Atman. When the whole universe, movable and  immovable, is known to be Atman, and thus the existence of everything else is  negated, where is then any room to say that the body is Atman?”

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