Atma Bodha – Chapter3

Atma Bodha

Vishnu Bapat

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अध्यासः Mistaken identity. Verse 6-9

What is Adhyasa?
Adhyas is mistaken identity. It is discussed in verses 6 to 9 of Atma bodha. The following examples will be useful.

  1. Suppose a Chinese man had twin daughters. He named them as jo Hua and So Hua. Adhyasa is mistaking jo Hua as So Hua.
  2. In dream, ignorance of the waker-hood gives a false identity that it is true. A dreamer creates his own world of body, mind and activity. He admits the status is real.
  3. In a moon-lit night we may see mother pearls spread over the beach which appear like siver coins. On examination adhyasa becomes evident.
    Adhyasa means a false superimposition of the characteristics of physical body (birth, death, skin color etc.) onto the Atman and also the false superimposition of the characteristics of Atman (sentiency, existence) onto the physical body. we shift our attention from self and self -knowledge to the world of appearance of names and forms.

संसारः-the world स्वप्नतुल्यः-is comparable to a dream हि-verily रागद्वेषादिसङ्कुलः-full of attachment and aversion etc. स्वकाले-at the right time सत्यवत्-like real भाति- appears प्रबोधे सति- when awake when wisdom dawns असत्-unreal भवेत्-becomes

Verse 6

The world is not real; it is like a dream

संसारः स्वप्नतुल्यो हि रागद्वेषादिसङ्कुलः ।
स्वकाले सत्यवद्भाति प्रबोधे सत्यसद्भवेत् ॥ ६॥
संसारः स्वप्नतुल्यः हि रागद्वेषादिसङ्कुलः स्वकाले सत्यवत् भाति प्रबोधे सति असत् भवेत्

The world which is full of attachments, aversions etc. is like a dream. It appears to be real as long as the dream continues, but appears to be unreal when one is awake (i.e. when true wisdom dawns)

संसारः स्वप्नतुल्यः हि –the world is truly like a dream. Samsara is one which is ever changing. संसरति इति संसारः. It is the mortal world where the endless cycles of birth and death occur. It is also the place from where liberation or immortality can be achieved.
Swapna is dream, tulya means equal to or similar to. The world is truly like a dream and so not a reality. A little background here will help.

There are three grades of reality, namely प्रतिभाषिक सत्य Pratibhashika Satya or dream experience, व्यवहारिक सत्य Vyavaharika Satya or experience in waking stage, and पारमार्थिक सत्य Paramarthika Satya or the experience in god-realized stage. The first is destroyed by the second and the second is destroyed by the third.
Swami Chidananda explains the following is the mechanism of dream.

  1. In sleep the waker forgets his status and everything associated with it. He creates a different dream world and dream body with new sense organs for his dream transactions. He cries laughs, runs, walks, eats, and gets angry or scared, all these happen during his dream. The ignorance of the waker-hood in him projects a dream world. This is called प्रतिभाशिक reality.
    The ignorance plucks the reality from the waking world and superimposes it on the dream world. If you tell the dreamer that the world, he is transacting now is unreal and is only a projection of his mind he will not agree with you. The dream world is absolutely real for him.
    The message of this verse is to show how unreal this world is. When you have come out of a dream you realize how foolish and unreal the dream was. Similarly, for a man of realization who has reached Brahman-hood the waking world too appears foolish and unreal. He realizes that there is no world of objects but there is only one absolute Brahman.
    Two more analogies are normally given in Vedanta to show पारमार्थिक reality of self or Brahman.
  2. The example of a rope and a snake. Suppose there is a rope in a semi-lit room. I would think that a snake is hiding there. My ignorance superimposes a reality of snake on the rope. Then I start seeing a slimy, slithering, poisonous snake. It even hisses at me. Similarly, the attributes of waking world are super imposed on the dream world and creates an illusion.
    The dream has two-fold effects on me. Both these are called अध्यास adhyasa.
  3. It projects an image which is unreal
  4. It plucks the reality from the real world and superimposes it on the projected image.
    रागद्वेषादिसङ्कुलः –full of attachment and aversion and so on. The word ’adi’ indicates that there are more of these negativities. It is a whole chain of qualities of which raga and dwesha are the first two. The others in the chain are lobha, moha, mada and matsara. Translated into English, the six negative qualities are: likes, dislikes, greed, delusion, pride, and jealousy. By keeping these alive it is like stabbing ourselves daily with six daggers.
    स्वकाले सत्यवत् भाति –As long as the dream continues it appears to be real. As soon as he wakes up from the dream the very world which he considered real becomes unreal as knowledge of self, dawns on him. He realizes Brahma eva satyam jagat mithya
    प्रबोधे सति असत् भवेत् -when awaken its unreality is perceived. When one is awakened from his dream meaning ignorance, through knowledge, it no longer exists. It vanishes exactly like the dream vanishes.

Verse 7

That the world is an illusion is explained by metaphor of mother of pearls

तावत्सत्यं जगद्भाति शुक्तिकारजतं यथा ।
यावन्न ज्ञायते ब्रह्म सर्वाधिष्ठानमद्वयम् ॥ ७॥

तावत् सत्यम् जगत् भाति शुक्तिकारजतम् यथा यावत् न ज्ञायते ब्रह्म सर्वाधिष्ठानम् अद्वयम्
तावत्-so long as सत्यम्-true जगत्-world भाति-appears शुक्तिकारजतम्-silver in the mother of pearl यथा-like यावत्-as long as न-not ज्ञायते-is realized ब्रह्म-Brahman सर्वाधिष्ठानम्-the substratum for all अद्वयम्- without a second

The world appears to be real so long as the Brahman, the substratum, the basis of all this creation is not known. It is like the illusion of silver in the mother-pearl.
तावत् सत्यम् जगत् भाति- as long as the world appears to be real till the illusion lasts.
शुक्तिकारजतम् यथा –like the mother of pearl appears as silver.

Often in a moon light the pearl oysters spread over the beach appears to be silver coins. Upon closer examination you will realize the truth. This confusion is called शुक्तिका रजतम् न्याय śuktikā rajatam nyāya. Similarly, the jagat appears to be true until reality is not known. The world is compared to the shell. It is glittering and tempts any one to pick it up. The extrovert mind steeped in six negative qualities रागद्वेषादिसङ्कुलः (राग द्वेश लोभ मोह मद मात्सर्य) likes dislikes, greed, delusion, arrogance, and jealousy creates a mental block of body consciousness.

यावत् न ज्ञायते ब्रह्म-This illusion of reality in the sea shell or the world remains as long as the reality of sea shell or Brahman is not known. But when it is known, the illusion is destroyed.
सर्वाधिष्ठानम् अद्वयम् –which is the substratum of all and one without a second. अधिष्टान or substratum refers to Brahman which remains changeless and lends support to the world. In the śuktikā rajatam nyāya when the true nature of seashell is known the illusionary nature of silver disappears. When the true nature of rope is known, the illusionary nature of nature disappears.
The self is called सर्वाधिष्ठानम् or support and substratum of all. It is called अद्वयम् or without a second one there is not another like it.

In the previous verse it was mentioned that the world is not real. It is like a dream. In this verse the author says that the world is indeed an illusion. What is the message for us? It is something we can start putting into practice right where we are. Gurudev Chinmayananda’s words are poignant: “O Sadhaka, do not run behind this world. It is just an illusion.

It may look very beautiful, but it is not worth our attention. For that silver shell, even the local nut-seller will not exchange it with a packet of peanuts; because they know it is not real silver!” So why waste time?

Verse 8

The world is like a bubble of water, so also is the creation which raise, exist and dissolve on the substratum of Brahman

उपादानेऽखिलाधारे जगन्ति परमेश्वरे ।
सर्गस्थितिलयान् यान्ति बुद्बुदानीव वारिणि ॥ ८॥

उपादाने अखिलाधारे जगन्ति परमेश्वरे सर्गस्थितिलयान् यान्ति बुद्बुदानि इव वारिणि
उपादाने- that which is the material cause अखिलाधारे- that which is the support of everything जगन्ति-the worlds परमेश्वरे-in the supreme self सर्गस्थितिलयान्-raising, existing and dissolving (सर्ग स्थिति लय) यान्ति-obtain बुद्बुदानि- bubbles इव-like वारिणि –in the waters.

Like bubbles in the water the worlds rise, exist and dissolve in the supreme self, which is the material cause and the support of everything.

Till now we learnt the illusory nature of the world through various examples such as dream, silver in pearl, etc. Acharya Shankara is further explaining the impermanence of the world by another beautiful example. Just as the bubble that emerges out of water, burst and fall back in water, all the creations originate, sustain and merge back in Brahman. All the creations are but an illusion and Brahman are the substratum of everything perceived

उपादाने –As the material cause and support of the universe. The त्रिगुणात्मिका माया (maya with three-fold traits) which is unreal is the root cause of creation. She has super-imposed upon Brahman which is her substratum. She is the primary cause of the creation of the macrocosm and microcosm.

अखिलाधारे means the entire totality of objects, emotion and thought is borne out of Ishwara, is supported by Ishwara
जगन्ति परमेश्वरे- all these worlds are bound in the supreme self. जगन्ति is the plural of jagat (जगत्) which means worlds. It is declined as जगत् जगति जगंति.
सर्गस्थितिलयान् यान्ति –In Him are they created, subsist and dissolve सर्ग स्थिति लय (सृष्टि, स्थिति, लय). The world of plurality is created, sustained and destroyed by Ishwara.
बुद्बुदानि इव वारिणि –like bubbles in water the worlds rise, exist and dissolve in the supreme self. The bubbles rise, merge with others and suddenly burst and disappear. Similarly, the worlds arise in the substratum, live for a while and perish.

This is the value of illusory world. The message given here is that the bubbles that appear in water, have no separate identity apart from the water which sustains them. Similarly, the creation which arises from the Brahman is sustained by him and ultimately merges into him. All this happens in the Substratum of Parameswara with Maya as their Upadana or material cause, and Parameswara (Brahman) as their efficient cause.

Verse 9

The manifested world is a projection on the all-pervading Brahman

सच्चिदात्मन्यनुस्यूते नित्ये विष्णौ प्रकल्पिताः ।
व्यक्तयो विविधाः सर्वा हाटके कटकादिवत् ॥ ९॥

सच्चिदात्मनि अनुस्यूते नित्ये विष्णौ प्रकल्पिताः व्यक्तयः विविधाः सर्वाः
हाटके कटकादिवत्

सच्चिदात्मनि-whose nature is existence-intelligence अनुस्यूते-joined by continuous suture नित्ये-eternal विष्णौ-upon Vishnu, the all pervading प्रकल्पिताः-projected by imagination व्यक्तयः-manifested विविधाः-manifold सर्वाः-all हाटके-out of gold कटकादिवत्-just as bracelets and other ornaments

All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by imagination upon the substratum which is the eternal all-pervading Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different ornaments are all made out of the same gold.
In the previous verse we learnt that the world is like a bubble of water. Just as the bubbles of water emerge, sustain, burst and fall back in water, all the creations are but illusions on Brahman and Brahman is the substratum of all the names and forms. Shankara explains this further in this sloka.

सत्-चित्-आत्मनि अनुस्यूते – the self whose nature is existence and consciousness is all pervading. अनुस्यूत means continuous suture, Joined together, hermetically sealed
नित्ये विष्णौ प्रकल्पिताः- it is a mental projection on the eternal Vishnu

व्यक्तयः विविधाः सर्वा – of this entire manifested world of multiplicity. This includes all names and forms of objects and things perceived in nature. विविधाः means plurality, multiplicity.

हाटके कटकादिवत् – just as bracelets and the various ornaments are made out of gold. हाटक means gold. कटक means bracelet. What the author conveys is that the element of gold remains the same in different modifications such as a ring, necklace or a bracelet. All the ornaments made of gold has the basic element gold only in it.

Similarly, all the manifested creation (विविधाः सर्वाः) has the basic substratum of Vishnu. Vishnu means all-pervading
Theory of creation
At this time some basic knowledge about the theory of creation in advaita Vedanta is necessary. For any creation to occur there have to be three causes. These are:

  1. उपादान कारण upādāna kāraṇa: material cause, the raw material
  2. निमित्त कारण nimitta kāraṇa: instrumental cause or equipment of creation
  3. अभिन्न कारण abhinna kāraṇa: the efficient cause or intelligence and skill of creation For example, in case of the creation of a pot the mud is the material cause, the potter’s wheel is the instrumental cause and the potter is the efficient cause.
  4. Thus, in creation also the three separate causes exist and the raw material is transformed into a new thing. God is the material as well as efficient cause. Just as nothing happens to gold even when the gold ring is melted, so too even when there are changes or modifications in the world, the eternal reality remains the same.
  5. Anatma world has limitations but not Atma The first three words of this verse अनुसूयते, नित्ये, विष्णौ which are in saptami vibhakti or locative case, suggest two actions:
    1. projection of the entire world on the substratum
    2. limitation of the projection
      Now let us examine these words.
  6. आत्मनि अनुसूयते – It is projected on the all- pervading Atman
  7. नित्ये- on the eternal Atman
  8. विष्णौ- and upon Vishnu the Lord who is their substratum. (विष्णौ विष्न्वोः विष्णुसु)
    The entire world is subject to three types of limitations. They are
    वस्तु vastu- the limitation of object, काल kāla- the limitation of time, and दॆश deśa – the limitation of space.
    The word अनुसूयते the all-pervading, negates वस्तु the limitation of object. The word नित्ये eternal negates काल the limitation of time. The word विष्णौ the omnipresent negates दॆश or limitation of space.
  9. व्यक्तयः विविधाः सर्वाः – of this entire manifested world of multiplicity. By describing the world as projection upon the substratum of self, the implied meaning is the world is a fluctuating show of objects upon the substratum हाटके कटकादिवत् simile- like gold in various ornaments made out of it. Ornaments may be of many names, forms and design, but its essence, gold is not changed.