Atma Bodha – Chapter1

Atma Bodha

Vishnu Bapat

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Chapter 1:

साधना चतुष्टय
तपोभिः क्षीणपापानां शान्तानां वीतरागिणाम् ।
मुमुक्षूणामपेक्ष्योऽयमात्मबोधो विधीयते ॥ १॥

तपोभिः क्षीणपापानाम् शान्तानम् वीतरागिणाम् मुमुक्षूणाम् अपेक्ष्य अयम् आत्मबोधः विधीयते
तपोभिः by austerities क्षीणपापानाम् – Purified of their sins शन्तानाम् – peaceful at heart वीतरागिणाम्- free from all cravings मुमुक्षूणाम् –for those who are desirous of liberation अपेक्ष्य- with regard to अयम्- this आत्मबोधःknowledge of the self विधीयते- is being composed.

I am composing the text of Atma Bodha or ‘self -knowledge’ to serve the needs of those who have been purified by austerities, and who are peaceful at heart, free from cravings, and desirous of liberation.

This is the invocation (मंगलाचरणम्) verse and also serves as a prospectus of qualification to study the treatise. This verse starts with the word तपस् or austerity/penance. Ramayana also starts with the word Tapas. It is an auspicious word. Tapa means heat. Tapas include meditation, a set of duties and disciplines, daily devotion and worship.
Lord Krishna speaks about three types of austerities– Body, speech and mind

देवद्विजगुरुप्राज्ञपूजनं शौचमार्जवम् ।
ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च शारीरं तप उच्यते ॥१७:१४॥

Worship of Gods, the Brahmana, purity, straightness, continence and harmlessness are called bodily tapas

अनुद्वेगकरं वाक्यं सत्यं प्रियहितं च यत् ।
स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनं चैव वाङ्मयं तप उच्यते ॥१७:१५॥

Words which cause no annoyance to others are truthful, agreeable and wholesome, as well as the study of Vedas and other shastras and cantoning of divine name are known as austerity of speech

मनः प्रसादः सौम्यत्वं मौनमात्मविनिग्रहः ।
भावसंशुद्धिरित्येतत्तपो मानसमुच्यते ॥१७:१६॥

Cheerfulness of the mind, placidity, silence, control of the mind and perfect purity of inner feeling –all this is called austerity of mind.

The object of tapas is to gain mental purity चित्त शुद्धि and control over the senses. चित्त ऎकाग्रता
तपोभिः क्षीणपापानाम् purified of their sins by austerity, karmas reduced
शन्तानाम् –peaceful at heart
वीतरागिणाम् –free from all cravings. This is an outcome of being at peace.
मुमुक्षूणाम्- one who desires to get liberation- liberation from birth and death
अपेक्ष्य अयम् आत्मबोधः विधीयते With reference to such people, this introductory (प्रकरण ग्रन्थ) is being composed.
This verse is no doubt an invocation but there is another message in it. It gives a four-fold prospectus explain the purpose and eligibility for the study of the book. It is called अनुबन्ध चतुष्टय.

  1. अधिकारी- Eligibility for the study. It says: तपोभिः क्षीणपापानाम् (karma yoga) शान्तानम् (discipline) वीतरागिणाम् (dispassion) मुमुक्षूणाम् (desire for liberation). We have already studied the meaning of these words.
  2. विषय –or the subject. The title Atma Bodha tells about the subject of the study. The subject is self-knowledge. Self means the true inner self not the one who is deluded.
  3. प्रयोजन –the benefit of studying this book. मुमुक्षूणाम् अपेक्ष्य with regard to the ones who desire to get liberation. This is the benefit. Liberation is guaranteed for those who are अधिकारी.
  4. संबंन्ध- connection. The author says विधीयते is being composed. The book is connected with the goal of obtaining liberation
    Chaper 2 अज्ञान ज्ञान – साधनम् प्रयोजनम्
    Knowledge of self verses 2-5

Verse 2

karma cannot give moksha because it cannot remove ignorance. Only vidya can remove ignorance.

बोधोऽन्यसाधनेभ्यो हि साक्षान्मोक्षैकसाधनम् ।
पाकस्य वह्निवज्ज्ञानं विना मोक्षो न सिध्यति ॥ २॥

बोधः अन्यसाधनेभ्यः हि साक्षात् मोक्ष एक साधनम् पाकस्य वह्निवत् ज्ञानम् विना मोक्षः न सिध्यति
बोधः-knowledge of the self अन्यसाधनेभ्यः-in comparison with other means हि- indeed साक्षात्-direct मोक्ष- एक- साधनम्-one means of liberation पाकस्य-for cooking वह्निवत्-just as the fire ज्ञानम्-knowledge विना-without मोक्षः-liberation न-not सिध्यति-accomplished

As the fire is the direct cause of cooking, so knowledge but not any other means is the direct cause of liberation. No liberation is possible without knowledge just as no coking is possible without fire.

बोधः अन्यसाधनेभ्यः हि – it is only knowledge, the one means to gain liberation. Other means are not conductive to direct awareness. What are the other means of discipline? Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Charity, pilgrimage, austerities, rituals etc. Are they superfluous? No. They help the sadhaka to turn his mind inwards, become cool and composed and help him in nidhidyasana. They help him to become eligible for knowledge. It is technically called as योग्यता प्राप्ति yōgyatā prāpti.

साक्षात् मोक्ष एक साधनम् –Self -knowledge is the only direct cause of obtaining liberation. Knowledge is the singular means of realizing Brahman. Other sadhanas are not redundant just as the stone cutter hits the chisel several times but it is the last one that breaks the boulder. The earlier hits are not redundant. They are complimentary. Puruṣa sūktaṁ says नान्यः पन्था अयनाय विध्यते (nānyaḥ panthā ayanāya vidhyatē) – there exists no other path.

कैवल्य उपनिशद् says:

न कर्मणा न प्रजया धनेन त्यागेनैके अमृतत्वमानशुः ।
परेण नाकं निहितं गुहायां विभ्राजते यद्यतयो विशन्ति ॥ ३॥

पाकस्य वह्निवत् ज्ञानम्- as fire is direct cause for cooking so is knowledge for liberation. Cooking involves several steps like collection of raw materials, cleaning, grading cutting etc. Then they have to be put into a vessel. Water is to be added all these intermediary processes although a part of cooking does not amount to cooking. It is only when the fire is ignited, we may say cooking has started. Similarly, when knowledge starts coming, we may say the process of liberation has started. So, we may say पाकस्य वह्निवत् ज्ञानम् साक्षात् एक साधनम्. What About microwave? It is also a form of heat. It is अनाग्नेय उष्णता heating without fire.
विना मोक्षः न सिध्यति –liberation cannot be obtained without knowledge. Similarly, all the earlier sadhanas are intermediary cause for liberation but they cannot be said to be exclusive cause.

Verse 3

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्यां विनिवर्तयेत् ।
विद्याविद्यां निहन्त्येव तेजस्तिमिरसङ्घवत् ॥ ३॥

In the previous shlokas Shankaracharya had said that karma cannot give moksha because karma cannot remove ignorance. Only vidya can remove ignorance.

अविरोधितया कर्म न अविद्याम् विनिवर्तयेत् विद्या अविद्याम् निहंति एव तेजः तिमिरसङ्घवत्

अविरोधितया-for not being opposed to action कर्म- action न-not अविद्याम्-ignorance विनिवर्तयेत्-destroys विद्या-knowledge अविद्याम्-ignorance निहंति-destroys एव-alone तेजः- as light alone can destroy तिमिरसङ्घवत्-as dense patch of darkness
Action cannot destroy ignorance for it is not in conflict with ignorance. Knowledge does verily destroy ignorance just as light destroys dense darkness.

अविरोधितया कर्म न अविद्याम् विनिवर्तयेत्- action cannot destroy ignorance for it is not opposed to ignorance. Water can douse fire because they are opposed to each other, but petrol cannot douse fire as they are supportive of each other. A man is basically drenched in ignorance of self because of his body consciousness. कर्म or action is performed to fulfill his bodily desires.

If the desires are fulfilled, he is motivated to get more results. If he is unsuccessful, he gets into a gamut of negativity like raga, moha etc. Nevertheless, man has improved quality of his living by actions. He has reached the moon. Travel time between two points is reduced.

Roads, dams, power stations, rockets, speed transportation etc. are a living testimony to his actions. But do they lead us to knowledge of self? No. The results of these actions lead us more and more into ignorance. In Vedanta ignorance is called a veil on knowledge. By means of action man is successful in getting fruits of his desire. Desire is avidya and all fruits of it are avidya. So, action is in harmony with avidya.

विद्या अविद्याम् निहंति एव तेजः तिमिरसङ्घवत् – just as knowledge destroys ignorance, light destroys dense darkness. अविद्या or ignorance refers to plurality of world. It is not literally the absence of book knowledge.

According to Vedanta, knowledge of non-dual Brahman is the true knowledge. All else is ignorance. Any trace of duality is ignorance. So, the forms of gods, life in heaven are all ignorance. Knowledge, but not action removes ignorance just as light removes the dense darkness of a room.

This is why it is knowledge alone that would help ultimately to get rid of the darkness of ignorance. Any amount of action will not directly cancel ignorance.

when ignorance is destroyed Jnyana or knowledge reveals itself.

परिच्छन्न इवाज्ञानात्तन्नाशे सति केवलः ।
स्वयं प्रकाशते ह्यात्मा मेघापायेंऽशुमानिव ॥ ४॥

परिच्छन्न इव् अज्ञानात् तत् नाशे सति केवलः स्वयम् प्रकाशते हि आत्मा मेघः अपायें अंशुमान् इव

Verse 4

परिच्छन्न-veiled, concealed इव्-as if अज्ञानात्-due to ignorance तत्-that ignorance नाशे सति-when destroyed केवलः-alone स्वयम्-by itself प्रकाशते-shines हि-verily आत्मा- the self मेघः-the cloud अपायें-when they pass away अंशुमान्-the sun इव- like

The Self appears to be concealed or devided because of ignorance. When ignorance is destroyed the One Self truly shines by itself, like the Sun when the clouds pass away.
परिच्छन्न इव् अज्ञानात् तत् नाशे सति केवलः –by ignorance the self appears as concealed. When the ignorance is destroyed, then alone one can experience the effulgent supreme self.
स्वयम् प्रकाशते हि आत्मा मेघः अपायें अंशुमान् इव – just as the sun is revealed when the clouds move away, the one self, shines brilliantly when ignorance move away.

In the previous verse it was said that nothing but knowledge can reveal the infinite self. The same idea is continued in this verse. This verse says when ignorance is destroyed Jnyana or knowledge reveals itself. A good example is given. In a cloudy atmosphere you do not see the sun. He is always there shining brilliantly. But due to the blanket of cloud the sun is not seen.

Similarly, due to the blanket of avidya Atman is not seen. So, the remedy is to remove avidya. Due to avidya the jiva feels limited although the it is ever unlimited.

What are the limitations for the jiva?

1. Limitation by space: the pure self is sarvavyapi that means present everywhere, omnipresent. Due to identity with the upadhi of body, mind and intellect it is experienced as alpavyapi or constrained to the body.
2. Limitation by time: The pure self is eternal or nitya. When the jiva is limited by the upadhi of time we feel we have a temporary existence. We do not wish to die although we are deathless.
3. Limitation by body: The pure self is not limited to your body. It is sarva- atman. So, we feel limited and threatened by other objects and individuals because we see a duality of ‘mama-atma’ and sarva-Atma’.

Verse 5

Practice purifies the ignorance of jiva, just like a kataka-fruit purifies water

अज्ञानकलुषं जीवं ज्ञानाभ्यासाद्विनिर्मलम् ।
कृत्वा ज्ञानं स्वयं नश्येज्जलं कतकरेणुवत् ॥ ५॥

अज्ञानकलुषम् जीवम् ज्ञानाभ्यासात् विनिर्मलम् कृत्वा ज्ञानम् स्वयम् नश्येत् जलम् कतकरेणुवत्

अज्ञानकलुषम्- contaminated, defiled, stained by ignorance जीवम्-jivatma the self ज्ञानाभ्यासात्- by the constant practice of knowledge विनिर्मलम्-becomes pure, free from contamination कृत्वा- having made ज्ञानम्-knowledge स्वयम्-itself नश्येत्- disappears जलम्-water कतकरेणुवत्- like the powder of ‘kataka-nut’

Through the repeated practice, knowledge purifies the embodied soul stained by ignorance. And then the iullusionery idea disappears, just like the powder of kataka-nut having cleaned the muddy water.

अज्ञानकलुषम् जीवम् – defiled by ignorance of illusionary ideas of ‘I”, “mine”, birth and death, happiness and unhappiness. Jiva through ignorance seems to be embodied soul.
ज्ञानाभ्यासात् विनिर्मलम्- is purified by the constant practice of knowledge. Long uninterrupted practice of nidhidyasana on the four mahavakyas mentioned here.

1. Prajnanam Brahma (प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म) Infinity I am
2. Aham Brahma Asmi (अहम् ब्रह्म अस्मि) Eternity I am.
3. Tat Tvam Asi (तत् त्वम् असि) Immortality I am.
4. Ayam Atma Brahma (अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म) Atman and Brahman are the same

कृत्वा ज्ञानम् स्वयम् नश्येत् –and upon the dawn of knowledge ignorance is destroyed by itself. Knowledge is the knowledge of self. It makes a man realize that he is not the doer or experiencer but the all-pervading Brahman Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute. सत् चित् आनन्द

जलम् कतकरेणुवत् – as the kataka-nut powder settles down carrying with it with the external particles in the water.The simile applies in the following manner: The water is the Self. The adulteration with mud is the impurities (अज्ञानकलुषम्) embedded in our Jiva. To remedy the situation, we use the kataka-nut powder of the Brahma Kara Vrutti, that is, the repetition of the thought of “I am Brahman”.

During Nidhidyasana we need remind ourselves that I am Brahman i.e. the effortful application of the “I am Brahman” thought. At the culmination of Nidhidyasana, when one is well-established in Samadhi, this Sadhana is not required anymore.

The consciousness of Brahman becomes effortless. Knowledge which is the instrument disappears into knowledge which is the goal or the self. That is the meaning of कृत्वा ज्ञानम् स्वयम् नश्येत्. Here we see how apt the illustration of the kataka-nut powder is in describing this process of Sadhana.