The Svetasvataropanishad begins with a discussion on the fundamental problems
of philosophy and religion by seeking answers to very important questions
like: What is the cause of the universe, why do we live, what is our final
destiny and why living beings are subjected to happiness and misery?
Various explanations such as nature, chance, fate, law, time, morality,
matter etc are considered but all of them are rejected as unsatisfactory
and insufficient. Science seeks to explain the “How” of the physical
universe but does not throw any light on the “Why” of life. Scientists
attribute the origin of matter and life to accident or chance. While
they assert that nothing in the world can exist without cause, they assign
the original or first cause of creation to unnatural accident and blind
chance, as human intellect is unable to comprehend the mystery of the Causeless
First cause. Physical universe and organic life in it are perfectly
designed and systematically arranged and NOT chaotic or disorderly.
The probability of accident or chance accounting for the origin of the
universe and life is practically nil. Furthermore, this hypothesis
cannot be proved as the process of origin of matter and life cannot be
replicated under experimental conditions. The tracing of the
genesis to chance is only a facile attempt to avoid a direct reference
to Providence. Accident or chance is only a disguised and euphemistic
nomenclature to designate Creator Almighty in anonymity or incognito
Philosophers infer the existence of an Absolute Reality behind the phenomenal appearances, on the basis of beauty of forms, loveliness of colourful varieties and neatness of design but they are not in a position to understand its exact nature or arrive at any firm conclusion about the Ultimate Reality. While philosophers agree that nothing can exist in the world without purpose, they are unable to find out the purpose of human life. Human intellect will land itself only in the blind alleys and dead ends of ad infinitum regress in trying to figure out the origin of the universe and life. Vedantists, therefore, say that it will be much safer to rely on the divinely revealed truths in the scriptures than to trust human speculations about the cause of creation. The Vedas are the earliest extant religious literature available to mankind and the truths contained in them are believed to be authoritative, eternal, incontrovertible and infallible. Vedas are the only means of valid knowledge about Brahman (Creator), as He is beyond the perception of the senses and inference of the limited human intellect. . The very third aphorism in the Vedanta Sutras says: SASTRA YONITVAT i.e. the Vedas provide the most authoritative, reliable and trustworthy knowledge about Brahman that cannot be known by any other means of knowledge.
Inquiry into Brahman is no different from the study of matter or mind but the methods adopted and techniques employed to know the Inner Reality are totally different from the scientific methods of observation and inference. Without knowing the exact nature and specific characteristics of Brahman it will be virtually impossible to distinguish the Creator from inert matter and sentient beings. The knowledge of the unity revealed in diversity cannot be comprehended without knowing the essential aspects of all the three realties. It will, therefore, be necessary to know the specific nature and distinguishing features of the three forms of realities namely matter, consciousness and spirit. Denial of plurality and difference in order to uphold unity as the one and only reality will be an oversimplification of the scriptural truths and such biased and one-sided approach may be misleading and should, therefore, be avoided. The inquiry into Brahman is undertaken for the specific purpose of knowing Brahman for gaining release from Samsara (cycle of births and deaths). If Brahman is indeterminate and unknowable, no final release may be possible.
Knowledge of Brahman can be gained only on the basis of Its distinguishing characteristics, as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe, to differentiate Brahman from insentient matter and conscious souls. The Prasthana Thraya i.e. scriptural trinity of Vedanta comprising the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and Srimad Bhagawad Gita are not meant to provide us knowledge about an indeterminate unknowable Brahman without form, attributes or distinguishing characteristics that are peculiar and unique to It. Brahman is not an abstract concept totally devoid of Its specific features and distinct personality traits. The word ‘Brahman’ points out to a self-revealing, self-manifesting Divine Being, as Brahman is suggestive of life and growth and not stagnancy and death. The Vedanta Sutras refers to the passage in the Taittiriya Upanishad that defines Brahman as That in which we live, move and have our being. The ‘I’ element of self-consciousness is the highest reality known to the human beings providing individuality of existence, awareness of separate identity as a distinct entity. Similarly, Brahman as the Creator of the universe and the living beings must have separate identity of His own with consciousness, intelligence, thinking, feeling and willing faculties.
Determination of the exact nature and specific characteristics of Brahman is far more important than the mere affirmation of Its existence and awareness of Its unknowability. Release can be gained only through knowledge of Brahman. If Brahman is indeterminate and unknowable there can be no possibility of final salvation at all. Brahman as an unknowable non-being without any distinguishing attributes of Its own cannot bring the highest experience of peace and bliss that man is capable of experiencing through the knowledge of the essential characteristics of Brahman. Religious consciousness and mystic experience cannot be had by mere knowledge of Brahman’s existence and awareness of its indeterminacy. The basic objective behind prayer, worship meditation etc, is to attain purity and perfection to make the aspirant a fit recipient of the grace of the Lord, for which a proper knowledge of Brahman is absolutely necessary.
Philosophers who try to comprehend the divine revelations in the Upanishads from the intellectual angle find it difficult to reconcile the mutually contradictory description of Brahman given in them to draw any meaningful conclusions about the nature and characteristics of Brahman. Brahman is described as far and near, within and without, not this, not this, personal and impersonal, manifest and unmanifest etc. Is Brahman personal or impersonal or both? Is the impersonal form superior to the personal or vice versa or are both personal and impersonal forms of equal importance and validity? Human intellect conceives infinity as beyond the temporal, spatial and causal limitations and on this basis it concludes that Brahman should be impersonal, transcendent, unmanifest, formless and indeterminate. In human conception, finiteness means having beginning and end, and susceptible to change, growth, pain, misery, disease, suffering etc. Brahman is beyond the plane of the humanly conceived finiteness, as the laws that govern the phenomenal universe are not applicable to Brahman.
The several misconceptions about the Vedantic concept of Brahman is due to the impediments placed by the human intellect that act as mental blocks in the understanding of Brahman. The use of the discriminating intellect to analyse Brahman rationally cannot lead to the personal experience of the Divine presence within or to mental perfection but can at best serve as an intellectual prop and support for the practice of meditation on the indeterminate Brahman with conviction and faith. The power to manifest in a tangible form is inherent in the Absolute. Infinity can circumscribe Itself within a Divine Personal form that Brahman chooses on Its own to favour Its devotees, as the human heart yearns for the personal form of Deity to pour out its feelings of love in the form of prayer and worship to seek pardon for its failings and sins. The assumption of form by Brahman cannot take away its omniscience and omnipresence nor make the Divine personal form mortal and perishable, as the Creator is not subject to the moral and physical laws applicable to living beings. In other words, the assumption of form cannot in any way affect Its infinity and supremacy. The personal form is not anthropomorphic or human in character to be subject to the imperfections and disabilities to which the human beings are subject to. The manifest form is spiritual and divine in nature to facilitate the prayer and worship of devotees.
In order to understand Brahman it will be necessary to know first What is Brahman? Is It an indeterminate, non-descript, unknowable non-entity or is It a Supreme Purusha or Divine Being? The reply to this question is furnished in verse III-vi-1 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad where Sage Yajnavalkhya in reply to Gargi’s question, “What pervades the world of Hiranyagarbha? Says: “Do not O Gargi question too far, lest your head should fall off. You are verily questioning about a Deity who is not to be known through reasoning.” In other words, the nature of the supreme Deity who is above all cannot be known through reasoning or intellectual inference, but only from the Vedas. Verse II-21 of the Kathopanishad and verse VI-23 of the Svetasvataropanishad also refer to Brahman as Deva or effulgent Divine Being. Brahman is a Devata or Deity with a Divine personality of Its own. Verses I-vi-6 of the Chandogya Upanishad describes Brahman in these words: “Now, that Supreme Purusha effulgent as gold, who is seen within the sun, who is with golden beard and golden hair is exceedingly effulgent even to the very tip of His nails. His eyes are bright like red lotus.”
Brahman as a Deity is a Divine personality with individuality of existence and will of His own for creative activities. Its manifestation in personal form does not affect Its extraordinary powers or Its unique original nature. The cosmic forces like the five elements of nature, mind, intellect, soul, ego etc, are presented in the visual form of Divine personality. There is absolutely nothing sectarian about the Universal Cosmic Being, portraying Himself in personal form and to believe that only the indeterminate, unmanifest, unknowable, impersonal, formless, abstract Absolute Reality can only be non-sectarian is a gross misunderstanding of the purport and spirit of the Upanishads. The misinterpretation of the Upanishadic passages to conform to one’s preconceived ideas about Brahman result in the distortion of Truth and even in torturing of Brahman through biased and one-sided presentation of the multi-faceted Divine personality. Creator as a Deity can be visualised only as a thinking, feeling, Divine Being with will power and personality traits of His own and NOT as an inconceivable, incomprehensible, formless, attributeless non-being. Brahman as Divine Spirit possessing self-consciousness for creative activities only provides clear hints and definite clues about the possible nature and characteristics as also the activities of the Divine Deity.
Several Upanishads like the Isavasya, Katha, Mundaka, Prasna, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka etc, use the word ‘Purusha’ to refer to the Divine Being who possesses will of His own (Satyakama, Satya Sankalpa), to carry on His intelligent activities. Brahman is a conscious, creative, intelligent Being with thinking, feeling, willing faculties of Its own and NOT a soulless consciousness without life or being. There is no question of any anthropomorphism as the Deity is APRAKRITA i.e. non-worldly and spiritual without even a semblance of human attributes. The Divine personality of the Supreme Deity has Its separate identity and individuality that is distinct and different from Prakriti (inert matter) and Purusha (conscious souls).
Upanishads provide only broad clues and covert hints about the nature and characteristics of Brahman who is the Author of the physical universe and Creator of the living beings. They, however, clearly declare that it will be impossible to possess a complete and thorough knowledge of Brahman but at the same time, after going through all the Upanishadic passages one cannot also say that he knows absolutely nothing about the Infinite Brahman. The knowledge of Brahman stands between nihilism or nothingness and omniscience or knowing everything. Only the essential personal and manifest aspects of Brahman that It chooses to reveal can be known by pure souls in deep meditation or samadhi. So Brahman, the very source of creation, and ultimate destiny of all beings cannot be known in all Its fullness or in Its entirety. The form seen in the deep meditation or samadhi is a Divine revelation and not a product of human imagination. Sceptics may not accept this but this is the Truth that has to be personally experienced but cannot be proved. Self-efforts cannot be of any avail in perceiving the Divine form and unless Brahman chooses to reveal Its form for which Divine Grace is essential, one cannot visualise Its form. Knowledge of Brahman can at best be incomplete and partial confined to the personal and manifest aspects of Divinity and it cannot be complete and comprehensive.
Verse 2 of Part II of the Kenopanishad declares: “ I do not think I know
Brahman well, nor that I do not know, for I know too. Who amongst
us comprehends Brahman both as not known and as known, he comprehends It.”
The next verse clarifies that only he understands Brahman who conceives
It not, but he does not understand Brahman who conceives It. In other
words, the person who thinks he knows Brahman knows very little about the
Infinite Brahman. This point is further elaborated in verse 4 of
the Upanishad where it is declared that he attains immortality who intuits
Brahman in and through every modification of the mind. Atman forms
the very substratum of consciousness that facilitates awareness of Realities.
None can comprehend the Infinite and the transcendental Brahman in its
entirety or totality but one can know Brahman only to the extent It reveals
Itself. In other words, only the personal and manifest aspects revealed
immanently can be known and nothing more, as human capacity is limited.
Brahman known as qualified by Its distinct and unique characteristics of
form and attributes facilitates the attainment of immortality.
Brahman without form or attributes can serve no useful purpose in prayer, meditation and worship. Though intellect rejects the idea of confining the infinite within the narrow bounds of a manifest form, the human heart is unable to accept the impersonal and the unmanifest. The religious feelings of love and reverence are far more important for spirituality than the promptings of the rational intellect, as religious consciousness is based more on emotions and feelings. The impersonal and the personal are twin aspects of the very same Brahman like sun and its rays, as Brahman is EKEMEVA ADVITIYAM i.e. one only without a second. The Infinite includes the finite and the formless covers form also. Furthermore, the attainment of a state of similarity with Brahman needs a Brahman with form and auspicious attributes without blemishes. The form manifested immanently is not physical or material but divine and spiritual. The Divine form cannot be seen by the fleshy physical eyes but intuited through extra sensory perception by pure souls favoured with divine grace. The Divine form seen through the spiritual eye is a vivid ineffable perception and not imagination, as the personal form manifested by the Deity out of His Divine Grace is a revelation to fulfil the yearnings of His worshippers. Blessed are the pure in heart for ONLY they shall see God.
Verses 9 and 10 of Chapter VI of the Kathopanishad bring out this fact forcefully by declaring: “His form is not within the field of vision; none can see Him with his eyes. He is revealed by the intuition of the intellect, which resides in the heart and controls the mind. Those who know Him become immortal. When the five senses of perception lie still with the mind, when even the intellect works not, that is the supreme state they say.” Personal efforts by way of spiritual disciplines are only meant to earn the grace of Brahman to attain the highest tranquil state of samadhi through purification of mind. Brahman who is immanent can be known only by His grace. The immanent Self as the Antaryamin is the same transcendental All-pervading Supreme Being possessing Divine form and an individuality of existence of His own. The immanent Self is not dormant and inactive but is a Living God who inspires and guides the soul on the right spiritual path. There is something more in consciousness than in life. Religious consciousness can only be matter of spiritual experience through the psychic evolution of man the animal to man the divine by the Grace of Brahman.
The important aspect of Divine Grace is clearly brought out in verse 23 of Chapter II of the Katha Upanishad which says: “ This Atman cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, nor by the intellect nor even by much learning; by him It is attained whom It chooses. To him, the Atman reveals Its own form.” This verse finds a place in the Mundaka Upanishad also. Though Brahman cannot be known wholly in all Its infinite aspects, that does not mean that the aspirant after Truth should give up all his efforts to understand Brahman. The Infinite Brahman cannot be apprehended, comprehended or perceived by the finite mind but the personal and manifest aspects of Brahman that It chooses to reveal can be intuited through extra sensory means. The knowledge of Brahman acquired from the study of the Upanishads has to be translated into a direct first-hand intuitive experience of the partially knowable Infinite Reality, which is both personal and impersonal as also transcendental and immanent. The scriptural study enables the aspirant to gain a correct conception of Brahman to practise Karma, Jnana, Dhyana and Bhakti Yogas with unshakable faith to intuit Brahman to the extent that It chooses to reveal Itself to the earnest and sincere devotees.
In verse 16 if the Isavasyopanishad an earnest aspirant prays sincerely to the Lord to remove the veil of Avidya Karman i.e. the Cloud of Unknowing that stands between him and Brahman so that he can behold His Divine form within, which is most auspicious. The word used is KALAYNATHAMAM ROOPAM i.e. most auspicious form. In verse III-I-3 of the Mundaka Upanishad it is stated that when the aspirant realizes the self-effulgent Supreme Purusha, the Ruler, Maker and source of Creator, then that wise one shaking off merits and demerits becomes stainless and attains supreme similarity and likeness with the Supreme Purusha. In verse II-ii-7, the same Upanishad describes the Supreme Being as ANANDA ROOPAM AMRITAM i.e. of the form of immortal bliss.
Among all the species, only man with moral awareness and spiritual consciousness has the capacity to better himself by conscious efforts to rise himself above and transcend his physical and mental limitations by expansion of his consciousness. Morality and righteousness are scrupulously observed to secure happiness and avoid misery.
Self-improvement is necessary for self-government to engage in right activity. Finite beings exist in the world only for the purpose of soul elevation and mental perfection. Personal God is absolutely essential for adoration, love, worship and surrender to seek His Grace for the progressive realisation of Him in all His Divine Glory and Greatness. Secular and ethical life find their consummation only in religious consciousness and mystic experience of the Divine. Mere theoretical knowledge by scriptural study, which enables one to assert the existence of the unknowable Brahman, carries no meaning for practical religious experience. What is necessary is to determine the exact nature and distinguishing characteristics of Brahman to facilitate practical super-sensual experience of the Ultimate Reality.
From Part III of the Kenopanishad we find that even gods like Agni, Vayu and Indra were not able to recognise Brahman. In verse 2 of Part III the Upanishad declares that Brahman appeared before these gods in a mysterious spiritual form of Yaksha and till Goddess Uma revealed Its identity, the gods did not know that it was Brahman. Brahman revealed Himself in the form of Yaksha by His own Divine will to favour these gods with His Grace. Atman is the very essence of our being and our very Self. The transcendental impersonal infinite Brahman can only be intuited as the personal, manifest immanent Self. There can be no happiness in life unless the source of life is itself blissful. Purification and perfection of mind elevates our awareness of Brahman from the unconscious to the conscious level, as we live, move and have our being only in Him.
In order to practise meditation and worship in the right manner, a clear knowledge of Brahman is absolutely necessary, as the result of meditation depends wholly on the proper conception of the object of meditation. Verse III-ii-4 of the Mundaka Upanishad warns that the Atman is not realised by men of weak will nor by the careless nor by those practising austerity devoid of proper insignia. The word used is ALINGATH, which literally means without proper sign or form. The discipline of contemplation and worship needs proper form or insignia for concentration of mind. A wrong conception of Brahman can result in the worship of the false Deity. Verse IV-12 of the Katha Upanishad says: “ The Purusha of the size of thumb dwells within the body. He is the Lord of the past and the future and thencefrom one fears no more.” The assigning of a size to the Infinite Brahman who is beyond the limitations of time, space and causation is only to facilitate meditation on His Divine personal form and auspicious attributes to attain a state of similarity and likeness with Him. Spiritual discipline without the proper form or insignia cannot lead to the highest result. That is why in verse 2 of Chapter XII of the Gita, the Lord says that those who worship Him fixing their mind on Him, ever devoted and endowed with supreme faith, these devotees are regarded by Him as the best Yogi. In fact, this statement is only a reiteration of what the Lord declared in the 47th verse of Chapter VI on Dhyana Yoga.
Practice of Vedic religion needs the personal form of Brahman, the Supreme Being. The basic objective of the Vedic religion and its end seems to be only personal, determinate, knowable Brahman. Spirit is only one aspect of eternal reality and it cannot exist independent of or in isolation of inert matter and conscious souls and the three realities together form the TRICHOTOMISM. Only a theistic approach to religion appeals to both head and heart of aspiring souls. The Highest Truth is intuited only in the super conscious state of samadhi and not in the impure sub-conscious or the imperfect conscious states. Highly perfected pure souls remain ever absorbed in Brahman in the mystic, super conscious state to keep away from the plurality of the sub-conscious and conscious states.
The entire Vedas are to be taken as a single, indivisible, comprehensive whole and all the four portions of the Vedas namely Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads unanimously propound only a Divine Supreme personality of Godhead with attractive form and auspicious attributes free of blemishes. The purport of the whole of the Vedas (Srutis), is SAGUNA UPASANA of EKA DEVATA i.e. devout worship of the One Supreme Deity without a second and there is absolutely no scope for viewing Brahman as impersonal, unmanifest, soulless non-being. In verse 15 of the second chapter of the Katha Upanishad Lord Yama the God of Death, refers to the goal which all the Vedas proclaim as VISNOR YAD PARAMAM PADAM. Both Vedas (Srutis) and Smritis like Itihasas (Epics), Puranas (ancient historical accounts), Dharma sashtras ( code of ethics), and Agamas (Manuals of worship) advocate only Monotheism or worship of the personal form of Brahman with all perfections and NOT attributeless, formless, indeterminate nonentity, as the wrong conception of Brahman will result in the worship of false god.
From the details furnished in the foregoing paragraphs, it should be quite evident that the Upanishads favour only Monotheism. Monotheism means belief in the existence of One Almighty Creator without a second who is the Supreme Ruler of the universe and who makes Himself known to mankind through divine revelations. The Upanishads which form the end portion of the Vedas called the Vedanta sums up the final conclusions of the Vedas about the nature of Brahman (Creator) and His close relationship with Cit (conscious souls) and Acit (physical universe). Vedanta philosophy lays down the intellectual foundation for the sincere practice of the Vedic religion with full conviction and firm faith.
The Upanishads contain the essence of the Vedas and the Bhagawad Gita is the most concise summary of the Upanishads. The Vedanta philosophy is based on the Prasthana Thraya i.e. the scriptural triad comprising the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and the Bhagawad Gita. Vedanta advocates the most practical religion of love with the most sublime philosophy. The Vedanta Sutras and the Gita seek to establish the fact that the religion of the Vedas is not contrary to or inconsistent with or different from the philosophy of the Upanishads. Both the Upanishads and the Gita talk of the very same Brahman. Gita admirably reconciles the mutually contradictory and diametrically opposite views about Brahman contained in the Upanishads by boldly proclaiming that the Supreme Deity of the Vedic religion is the Brahman or the Absolute Reality of the Vedanta philosophy. Upanishads contain the mystic experiences of various seers at different times in different places but the Gita presents a clear visual picture of the Brahman of the Upanishads, with the Supreme Lord Himself revealing His real nature and Divine personal form.
The Bhagawad Gita being a Smriti cannot propound any radically new doctrine about Brahman that is contrary to or inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Upanishads (Srutis) or the Vedanta Sutras. In fact, sage Badarayana the most respected author of the Vedanta Sutras seems to have had in his mind the comprehensive concept of Brahman advocated in the Bhagawad Gita, as he refers to the Gita in a few aphorisms. He refers to Gita as Smriti or what is remembered as opposed to the Srutis or what is divinely revealed or heard. In aphorism IV-ii-21 of the Vedanta Sutras, the sage says YOGINAH PRATI CHA SMARYATE SMARTE CHAIRTRE. The aphorism refers to the passing away of the yogi through the two paths namely the path of gods and the path of manes. These two paths are mentioned in the Rig Veda, the Chandogya Upanishad and the Gita. It is clearly evident from this aphorism that the Vedanta Sutras are later than the Gita and the author of the Vedanta Sutras was familiar with the contents of the Gita.
In verse 27 of Chapter XIV of the Gita, the Lord says: “Indeed, I am the basic support of Brahman, of the incorruptible state of Moksha (salvation), of Dharma (eternal Law) and of everlasting bliss.” In this verse the Lord very clearly and unambiguously declares that His personal form is the sole support of the impersonal absolute, just as the sun is the source of the infinite formless light. From this verse it is quite evident that the personal form of the Lord is superior to the impersonal, indeterminate non-being. Some philosophers contend that formless Brahman is higher than the personal form and this conclusion of theirs is based on the principle that if contradictory statements are found in the Vedas in regard to one and the same subject, the statement that appears later in point of time should be accepted, as it could represent the better considered and more refined view on the subject. In this connection it may be submitted that the chronology and sequence of the various Upanishads are not known with any degree of certainty. In fact, out of the 108 Upanishads, only ten are accepted as authoritative known as the major or principal Upanishads and of these ten, the later ones like Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Isa etc advocate worship of Supreme Deity with personal form. The principle of acceptance of later view may hold good in respect of personal beliefs help by individuals in his lifetime and cannot be extended to Divine revelations intuited by different seers at different places at different points in time. Furthermore, as meditation on the attributeless, formless, indeterminate non-being may be difficult in the initial stages, these philosophers advocate meditation on lower personal form in the beginning stage and meditation on the unmanifest, formless Brahman considered by them as the Supreme and highest Brahman in the later stages. This compromise of lower and higher Brahmans goes against the very letter and spirit of the Upanishadic revelation of EKAMEVA ADVITIYAM i.e. Brahman is a single indivisible whole without a second.
An intellectual approach to the study of mystic experiences results in advocating an abstract and dry philosophy that does not appeal to the religious sentiments of the masses, as intellect cannot understand feelings and emotions. Vedanta is a fine blend of philosophy and religion that appeals both to the head of intellectuals and the heart of common people. Vedanta is a philosophy of religion that lays down firm intellectual foundation using reason and logic for the serious practice of the Vedic religion with full conviction and unshakable faith. Any overemphasis on the philosophical aspects of Vedanta will result in the advocacy of an abstract, formless, inaccessible Absolute reality that may appeal only to intellectuals who may be more inclined towards agnosticism and atheism but may leave the human hearts high and dry. Similarly, practice of Vedic religion on the basis of blind faith without clear concept of Brahman may result in high emotionalism and sentimentalism, which is also not good. When intellect reigns supreme, emotions are weak and when emotions are high intellect does not function at its best. In the Gita the Lord praises the man of knowledge in whom intellect and emotion are in proper balance, as only he can practice the Vedic religion till the very end of his life with firm conviction and unshakable faith.
The human heart longs for a close and intimate contact with the Deity to pour out its feelings of love to seek the grace of the Lord for salvation from evils, sins and imperfections of every kind, as the unknowable, indeterminate Brahman looks remote, inaccessible, soulless and revolting to these pious souls. Sri Ramanuja and all the Vedanta Acharyas who succeeded him like Madhwa, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Chaitanya etc were of the very firm view that the Brahman of the Upanishads is Monotheistic possessing Divine form and auspicious attributes and NOT an attibuteless, formless non-being. Sage Badarayana who was familiar with the contents of the Bhagawad Gita seems to have accepted the concept of Monotheism and personal Brahman of the Gita as fully in accord with the teachings and philosophy of the Upanishads. Impartial philosophers and intellectuals say that the interpretation of the Vedanta Sutras by Sri Ramanuja is close to the letter and spirit of these aphorisms and portrays truthfully the mind and heart of sage Badarayana who compiled the sutras keeping in view the contents of the Upanishads and the Bhagawad Gita.
World Health Organisation had declared the year 2001 as the Mental Health Year since nearly 35% of the global population suffer from psycho-neurotic disorders like mood variations, depression, stress, fear, anxiety, obsessions etc. Human mind can be man’s best friend or his worst enemy and it can make a hell of heaven and heaven of hell. Physical world is the very same for all the living beings but it is the attitude and outlook of each individual towards the external world and society that makes all the difference in their adaptation and behaviour. Peace of mind and everlasting happiness that man longs for are only states of mind and these cannot be had by changes in the external circumstances of life. Reliance on outer world cannot bring about internal harmony and serenity. Unless the functioning of the human mind is thoroughly understood, permanent cure for the widely prevalent mental illnesses and psychosomatic disorders cannot be found. Despite the tremendous advancement in the fields of science and technology, the knowledge about the working of the human mind is still in its infancy and psychology has still not been recognised as a science with set laws and principles. Human problems cannot be solved unless human behaviour can be predicted with reasonable degree of accuracy and precision by knowing the law that governs the functioning of the human mind.
Man can achieve the highest of human possibilities only through the fullest exploitation of the vast potentials of his mind and this knowledge only can help him to lead a purposeful and triumphant life. It is highly unfortunate that the discipline of psychology, which is of greatest interest and importance to the whole of mankind is still in the rudimentary stage of development and the many-sided faculties of the human mind in terms of intelligence, creativity, artistry, originality, high thinking, emotional stability, will-power, remembrance etc, remain untapped and go waste. Man has to be a master of his mind and not a slave to his senses. The essence of man is his mind and it is the mind that can make or mar his destiny. For the achievement of success in life, human mind should use the intellect to understand the truth about the external and internal realities, cultivate the emotions to foster positive feelings like love, compassion, forgiveness etc, and utilise his will power to achieve the supreme goal of life by pursuing it relentlessly with determination and perseverance. Mind, which is the perceiving, thinking, feeling, coordinating and controlling faculty in man cannot function independently on its own and derives its capability from consciousness. In fact, senses, brain, memory and intellect function because of the existence of consciousness. Mind represents the contents of consciousness that surface from memory. The continuity in the flow of thoughts in the mind will not be possible without the substratum of consciousness. An unconscious person cannot perceive anything, as he is totally unaware of his own existence and the happenings around him. In this sense, consciousness forms the very base of the human personality. In fact, physicians consider the permanent impairment of consciousness beyond the possibility of retrieval as clinical death even though the other vital systems of the body like breathing, blood circulation etc may be functioning and intact. Mind and consciousness though separate and distinct are inalienably connected and they always function together.
Among all the countries in the world, only India has devoted maximum attention to the exercise of control over senses and mind through the system of Yoga propounded by its ancient seers. In fact, their knowledge of the functioning of human mind seems to have been far more complete and comprehensive than what is known to even the very best among the modern Western psychologists. The ancients knew that human nature at its worst can be bestial and demonic and at its best can be noble and divine. The remnants of the evolutionary animal past remain in the human sub-conscious as Vasanas or impressions and unless these predispositions of the mind are got rid off totally through the practice of Yoga, man may continue his animal past in the human present also to his own detriment. Self-improvement and Personality development to achieve the highest of human possibilities can, therefore, be possible only through the eradication of the animal instincts and bestial tendencies by the adoption of the Yogic discipline.
Human memory is the repository of all the past learning experiences both good and bad but conscious mind can gain access to only a limited number of thoughts and that too one at a time. Intellect is the discriminating faculty of the mind and will is guided more by feelings than rational thinking. Free will accepts pleasure and freedom and rejects pain and discipline. Mind can be scattered and dissipated with conflicting thoughts or can be collected and concentrated on one single objective and goal. In verse 41 of Chapter II of the Gita, the Lord says that the firm and resolute have only one single aim in life whereas in the irresolute and infirm the thoughts are many and divisive. In verse 15 of Chapter V, the Lord declares that the consciousness is enveloped by the past habitual tendencies and because of this dark Cloud of Unknowing, beings get deluded. In the next verse He adds that those whose ignorance in the shape of past impressions (Vasanas) is destroyed by the knowledge of the Truth about Self, their intuitive knowledge, like the sun manifests that Supreme Self. The Lord further adds that those whose minds are set on That Truth, who are devoted to That, who seek refuge in That attain that Ultimate in Truth with their past predispositions winnowed off by the Light of Truth.
Human mind by its very nature is weak and prone to evil. How should one get rid of the past animal tendencies in the shape of bestial instincts and devilish impulses? Resort to Yoga is the one and only effective method to elevate and ennoble the weak and bestial mind. In verse 5 of Chapter VI of the Gita the Lord says:
UDDHAREDHATMANATMANAM NA ATMANAM AVASADAYET
ATMAIVA HI ATMANO BANDHUR ATMANIVA RIPUR ATMANAH
i.e. “One should uplift one’s lower (animal ) self by the Higher (Divine) Self; one should not downgrade one’s self. For the mind verily is both friend and foe of the self.” In Sanskrit the word “Atman” can refer to the physical body, mind, soul or the Supreme Self. This verse refers to the twin aspects of the self of man namely the Higher Divine Self and the lower animal self. The Higher Divine Self is the Inner Ruling Spirit while the lower animal self is the sub-conscious mind dominated by sensual bestial instincts. The sense dominated sub-conscious lower self should not be allowed by conscious mind to overpower the Inner Ruling spirit in the shape of the Higher Divine Self in man. The discriminating intellect should draw inspiration and strength from the Inner Ruling Divine Spirit by communion with It through Yoga. In fact, Yoga yokes the imperfect soul with the Pure and Perfect Divine Spirit. Ask, Seek and Knock to gain entry into the Divine Kingdom of God within.
This aspect of soul seeking the guidance of Spirit is more clearly brought out by the Lord in verse 42 of Chapter III of the Gita where He says: “The senses are great, they say. Superior to the senses is the mind, and superior to the mind is the intellect. What is superior to the intellect is He, the Inner Ruling Divine Spirit.” In verse 4 of Part II of the Kenopanishad we find the following verse:
PRATIBODHAVIDITAM MATAM AMRITATVAME HI VINDATE
AATMANA VINDATE VIRYAM VIDHYAYA VINDATE AMRITAM
i.e. “Indeed, he attains immortality who intuits Atman in and through every state of mind. Through the Atman he derives mental strength and through meditation of the Higher Self immortality.” From the Divine Spirit or Paramatma the intellect draws mental strength and sustenance to overpower the sense dominated sub-conscious animal mind that remains always unruly and restless.
In verses 4 and 5 of Chapter X of the Gita, the Lord makes it very clear that intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, truth, self-control, calmness etc representing the different attributes of being arise from Him. In fact, in verses 10 and 11 of the same Chapter the Lord declares that for those who are ever devoted to Him and who worship Him with love, the Lord bestows the understanding by which they attain Him. Out of compassion for them, the Lord who dwells in their hearts as their Inner Ruling Spirit dispels the darkness born out of ignorance in the form of past animal instincts and sinful tendencies by the shining lamp of Divine Wisdom.
Verse II-ii-23 of the Kathopanishad declares emphatically: “ The Atman cannot be attained by the study of scriptures nor by exercise of intellect nor even by much learning. By him the Atman is attained whom It chooses. To him the Atman reveals Its real form.” In other words, the Atman is realised only by those aspirants who desire nothing whatsoever of this mundane worldly felicities except the Atman, which is the Inner Ruling Spirit of the soul and mind. The Atman is attained by the devotees by seeking refuge in the Inner Ruling Spirit. Correct knowledge of individual soul and Supreme Spirit and the nature of inalienable relationship between them can only provide the most effective anti-dote for the ills of human mind and the problems of human existence.
Man perceives, thinks, feels, wills, imagines, infers, remembers, reflects, chooses, and discriminates through his mind. Human mind is a battleground for good and bad thoughts as also positive and negative feelings. Man can better himself by improving the level of his thinking by changing the nature of his thoughts and feelings. The nature of thoughts and the type of feelings that surface on the conscious mind from the memory influences the behaviour and moods of individuals. Amongst all the species, only man has moral awareness and spiritual consciousness and he can alone evolve and progress psychically to reach the peak of moral purity and spiritual perfection. Mind should preoccupy itself with a single profound objective and highest ideal and use the will power to attain that ideal and achieve the peak of peace, happiness and fulfilment. The achievement of this laudable objective can only make life worthwhile and existence purposeful.
cannot be tackled intellectually by experts and specialists who themselves
do not have any clear idea of the meaning and purpose of their own lives.
Mind is responsible both for man’s bondage and liberation. Man is
an indivisible organic being whose mind functions because of consciousness,
which is dependent on life force. Unless man knows to control his
mind with the help of his Inner Ruling Divine Spirit through Yoga to direct
it purposefully to attain the highest goal of liberation, he cannot exploit
to the full extent, the vast potentials of the mind. Study of the
human mind cannot be a hit and miss affair based on trial and error process
of learning through mistakes. Truth about mind cannot be discovered
from outside by experts and has to be found for oneself within. The
Upanishads and the Gita deal wholly with the proper use of mind to attain
the highest objective of human life.
SECRET OF KNOWLEDGE IN BHAGAWAD-GITA:
SECRET OF ACTION IN BHAGAVAD GITA:
SCIENTIFIC SIDE OF RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS:
SELF AS KNOWER IN VISISHTADVAITA:
ARYAN INVASION THEORY - FICTITIOUS FABRICATION:
RELEVENCE OF RELIGION IN SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY:
Rewriting the History of Ancient India:
What Hindus ought to know: