Meaning of Life and Mystery of Death- An Exposition by Sage Sanatsujata in Mahabharata

3. Jnana Yoga - Knowledge of the Self

Dhrtarashtra said:
O Sanatsujata, you have been telling me about the various means of attaining Brahman, which is the highest goal of human life, in words which are very lofty conveying many meanings. It is very difficult even to get an opportunity to hear these in this world of objects. Please tell me now about Brahman itself.

Sanatsujata said:
O king, this Brahman about which you are asking me with such eagerness cannot be attained by a person who is in a hurry. This knowledge is to be meditated upon by the intellect wherein the cogitating mind has been withdrawn from all external objects and has become fixed on the Self. The knowledge of that uncaused Truth is beyond this unreal universe. It can be attained only by the wise who practice ‘brahmacarya’. On attaining that one sheds the notion of being a mere mortal. This knowledge reposes in one to whom it has been imparted by his Guru. Those who approach a guru in the prescribed manner, become his disciples and serve him become learned in the scriptures in this world itself. Then, by the practice of reflection and contemplation they attain the Supreme Being who is of the nature of Truth when they cast off their bodies on the exhaustion of their Prarabdha Karma. They conquer all desires in this world itself. Constantly practicing the state of identity with Brahman with determination they separate the Self from the body.

O Bharata, the father and mother give you this body which is not real (but only mithya). The birth from the guru as Brahman which is existence-consciousness-bliss is real and it is immortal. He (acarya) leads the disciple to the attainment of Brahman which is immortal. The disciple should never do any harm to his acarya and should always respect him knowing what very great good he has done to him.

The disciple learns one-fourth from the guru, one-fourth by his own effort, one-fourth by discussion with his co-disciples, and one-fourth by the efflux of time. The practice of brahmacarya culminates in the realization of identity with Brahman only by the grace of the Guru. Sanatsujata continues, ‘O kshatriya, by means of Karma people attain only the impermanent worlds such as those of the gods and the manes. By knowledge the enlightened person attains that eternal effulgence which is the supreme Self. There is no other path to it.

Regarding the form of that immortal, imperishable, Supreme Being whom the enlightened person realizes as also the means thereof, Sanatsujata states that the Supreme Being does not appear as white, or red, or black, or bright, or smoky, because it has no color. It is neither on the earth nor in the sky. Nor does it reside in the ocean with a body made up of the five elements. It is not seen in the RgVeda or the YajurVeda or the Atharva Veda or in the pure Sama Veda. It is seen in the Self of the person who practices the great vows described earlier. It can never be negated. It is beyond ignorance. At the time of pralaya the universe merges into it. It is subtler than the subtlest and bigger than the mountain. This entire universe shines (appears) only because of the light of this Brahman. The knower of the Self sees it through the yoga of jnana. All this universe is established in it. Those who know it become immortal.

4. Description of Brahman

Now, Brahman, the object of Jnana yoga, is beautifully painted by the Artist Sanatsujata. The line “yoginah tam prapasyanti bhagavantam sanatanam” (the Yogis realize this Brahman, the Eternal Lord) recurs at the end of each stanza in this section. Those who practice jnanayoga realize the eternal Lord (Brahman) who is pure, supreme effulgence, resplendent, and supreme glory itself. The gods worship Him. The sun shines because of Him.

From the pure Brahman, Hiranyagarbha is born. This Hiranyagarbha grows into Virat. That pure Brahman shines by its own luminosity. It does not need to be illumined by the sun and other luminaries, but it is what enables them to shine. The yogis realize this Brahman. From the Supreme Self which is not limited by time, space and other objects emerges the jiva who is also declared by the wise to be unlimited, being identical with the Supreme Self. When the jiva who is associated with the subtle and gross bodies realizes that he is separate from those bodies, he remains as the Supreme Self which is non-dual, infinite, consciousness, and bliss.

Just as space accommodates everything, just as the river Ganga has waves, so also the entire universe of movables and immovable’s arises from Brahman and merges in Brahman. The body of the wise man is his chariot. With the help of this he attains to the effulgent Being who is beyond old age and death. The horses of the chariot (in the form of the senses) take him to the world of light. There is nothing comparable to the form of this Supreme Being. None can see Him with his eyes who is within as the Self. He can be known only through the heart and the intellect. He who knows this Supreme Being as identical with his own Self becomes immortal. The group of twelve, namely, the five organs of sense, the five organs of action, mind and intellect, are restless and are protected by the Lord. They go after their respective objects which are like honey to them. Because of this they are the cause of transmigration. Therefore the organs, the mind and intellect should be withdrawn from external objects and concentrated on the Self.

The bee collects honey during six months of the year and consumes it during the remaining six months. Similarly the jiva experiences in the next birth the results of Karma performed in the present birth. The Lord has created food (all worldly joys and sorrows) for all beings which they get according to their Karma.. The wingless beings, i.e., the ignorant human beings, who are devoid of the wing of knowledge of the Self, dwell on the peepal tree with leaves which are agreeable and beautiful. That is, they revel in worldly pleasures. Then, when they are born in bodies which are conducive to spiritual advancement, they attain knowledge of the Self and are liberated. Apana is merged in Prana. Prana is merged in the moon, i.e., the mind. The moon (mind) is merged in the sun (intellect). The sun (intellect) is merged in the Supreme Brahman. Hamsa, (the one who destroys avidya along with its effects), i.e., the Supreme Being, remaining beyond this universe made up of the elements and all created bodies, is also in the universe in the form of jivas. If not, there would be no jiva, no samsara, no death, and no immortality.

That non-dual Existence-consciousness-Bliss, the indwelling Self of all, who is infinite, the Supreme Being, transmigrates (apparently) with the subtle body of the size of one’s thumb as the limiting adjunct. Those devoid of discrimination, who identify themselves with their two bodies (gross and subtle) do not see that Lord who rules over every one, who is worthy of worship, who appears as all beings, and who is resplendent. Just as snakes come out of their holes, kill men with their poisonous bite and go back and hide in their holes, so also, the senses, going out to their respective objects which are like poison, destroy the man. He becomes deluded by the sense-objects and continues in the transmigratory cycle. They do not see the Supreme Being because of delusion, but the yogis see Him.

The same Atma dwells in those who have acquired control of the senses, control of the mind and the other requisites for a spiritual aspirant, as well as in those who have not acquired these. The Atma is the same in the states of bondage as well as liberation. Those who have acquired these qualities attain the Supreme Bliss that is Brahman.

Brahman which is infinite bliss pervades this world and the other world. By the attainment of the knowledge of the Self the result of agnihotra (fire-sacrifice) is attained even without the performance of the sacrifice, i.e., the results of all rituals are attained by the knowledge of the Self alone. But it is not the mere transient result of rituals that is attained by knowledge but one realizes the Supreme Brahman as one’s own Self. Brahman is known as prajnanam or Consciousness.

The Sruti says ‘Prajnanam Brahma’ i.e. such a person who knows that he is the Self who is pure consciousness and infinite, remains as Brahman.One who always identifies himself with the Reality (Brahman) remains as Brahman. There is no death for him. When there is no death, where is the question of immortality? All that has empirical reality is superimposed on Brahman, the only Reality, like illusory silver on a shell. Both the empirical and the illusory have the Reality as substratum.

The indwelling Self, of the size of the thumb, resides in the heart. It cannot be seen in its real nature as non-dual Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. It is unborn and is the Self of all the moving and unmoving. The wise man knows it by negating the five sheaths by constant meditation day and night. He then becomes fulfilled. From it originates air and merges in it. Fire, soma, prana, are born from it. It is the support of all. It is immortal. It is all the worlds. It is Brahman. It is glory. All beings are born from it and merge in it.

The pure Brahman supports jiva, isvara, Earth, Heaven, the directions and the whole universe. From it flow the directions, rivers and the mighty oceans. Even if one has thousands of wings and has the speed of the mind, one will not be able to reach the end of the Cause of the universe. The form of this Being is beyond sight. Those with well illumined minds see Him. The wise man, who is free from attachment, aversion, etc., realizes Him in his mind. Those who know Him become immortal. He who sees this Self in all bodies, what sorrow will he have thereafter?

For the knower of Brahman there is no need for anything else in the world, just as there is no need to go about in search of water when the reservoirs are full. “I myself am your mother, father, as well as son. I am the Self of all that exists and all that exists not. O Bharata, I am the old grandsire, father and son. You are all mine as the Self. Again, you are not mine, nor am I yours.”

The apparently contradictory statements are to be understood in the same manner as in Bhagavadgita, Ch.9. Verses 4 and 5. From the point of view of Absolute Reality there is none other than Brahman and so there are no relationships at all. But from the empirical point of view all these exist. The Atma is my support. Everything is born from the Atma. I am the warp and woof of the world. I am established in my own glory which is devoid of birth and death. I am birthless and always active and untiring. Knowing me the wise one remains in bliss. I am subtler than the subtlest. I am the auspicious - free from aversion, pride, envy, grief, delusion, etc., and of the nature of non-dual Brahman which is pure consciousness, existence, and bliss. I am the father of all beings – Sat Chit Ananda.

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