Summary of the chapter:
After talking about a "Guru" the author talks about the seeker and what spiritual virtues one needs to have. Before entering the last phase of spiritual evolution, the culmination of knowledge, some preparation needs to be done. The author emphasizes the criticality to know the basics which are covered here. This chapter prepares the reader who is entering the doorway of knowledge.
Text of the chapter
Now that a Guru has been chosen for me, the next question is:
Why do I need Self-knowledge? Do I need to be spiritual? I’m quite happy with my life, work, family, hobbies, and my devotion. So why do I need Self-knowledge?
Whatever I am inside determines the quality of my life outside. I see one who is established in knowledge, like a sage, as always happy, unaffected, free of anger, ego, and misery. So this is my goal—realizing the perfection within.
I have been learning for years from a teacher that I am consciousness, the Self, the Atman. But why has this not been my experience? Do I lack the ingredients that are the catalysts in realizing this knowledge?
What are these attributes that I need to develop to be a good student of Self-knowledge? Ah yes! They were described by Swamiji earlier as:
The four-fold qualifications for a seeker—Sadhana-catushtaya:
1. Vivek: discriminating wisdom on what is real/unreal, permanent/changing, Self/not Self, which leads to
2. Vairagya: Dispassion which leads to
3. The six spiritual wealths Shat-sampatti:
Sama: mastery over the mind that leads to
Dama: control over the external senses, that enables us to
Uparati: withdraw from the world and do the right thing,
Titiksha: have forbearance with the ups and downs of life.
Shraddha: have faith in the scriptures and your Guru as the
sources of knowledge on the unknown. All of the above leads to,
Samadham: a focused mind that gets absorbed in the Self.
4. Mumukshutva: yearning for freedom. It is the desire to free oneself from all bondages by realizing one’s true nature.
I have to ask for a Guru to be given one. I have to ask for realization to be given, amazingly nature is listening it grants all true wishes, and miraculously I will gain it.
I have noticed that these qualities are both the requirements and also the outcomes of learning. I seem to have gained more Vivek and Vairagya over the years.
There are six philosophies in the Vedic tradition. I believe they are a progression in the evolution of understanding and not parallel paths. They are:
6. Vedanta - often refers to the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, i.e. the Upanishads, and the last six chapters of Bhagavad Gita. It is the culmination of knowledge.
The first step in learning is to purify the mind through Yoga of Action, the second is to attain clarity through spiritual practices (Upasanas). Swamiji says that the last phase of the spiritual evolution, Vedanta, is to lift the veil of ignorance (Aavarna) that is covering the true Self. This can only be done through gaining knowledge of the Self.
The practice (Sadhana) for final liberation in Vedanta is to first listen to Self-knowledge from a Guru (Sravanam). Then reflect on this knowledge (Mananam) using one’s intellect to remove doubts and answer questions that may arise. This leaves no conflict or confusion in the mind. You gain total clarity of knowledge. The final stage is to abide in the Self through meditation (Nididhyasa), the only way to experience the Self or consciousness. This practice is done repeatedly with patience and perseverance. In due time, depending on the inner qualities of the student, the veil drops forever. With the grace of God, when the fruit is ripe it falls. The self-effulgent soul shines forth like Buddha—the enlightened one!
Before you read research papers on science, you have to go through the elemental studies of physics, chemistry, etc. In the same way, it is good to learn the fundamentals on which the highest knowledge is based. One of the introductory texts on Vedic wisdom is the “Tattva Bodha,” by Adi Shankaracharya. It
covers the above and much more. It talks about the structure of creation and its relation to consciousness. This chart (overleaf) graphically illustrates this part of the text:
It is interesting how the microcosm, the human being, is an exact replica of the macrocosm. The macrocosm replicates itself infinitely, like a fractal. An easy way to remember this is using the ten fingers. The five fingers on the right hand, pinky for physical body, ring finger for subtle body, index finger for causal body, fore finger for conditioned consciousness (Jiva) and thumb for soul (Atma). Then on the left hand, pinky for the total physical universe or creation(called Virat), ring finger for the
total subtle creation or cosmic mind (called Hiranyagarbha or Mahat Tattva), index finger for the causal cosmic creation (Mool Prakritri), fore finger for the cosmic creator (Ishvara), and thumb for cosmic consciousness (Brahman). In addition to the associations made above, Karmas (account of our actions) and Vasanas (impressions) are part of the causal body.
All the terms in the chart above such as Isvara, Jiva, Maya, etc. are explained in the Tattva Bodha. Jiva is essentially the same as Maya, illusion. It is the veil of ignorance that covers the true Self. It is the false identification with the causal, subtle and gross bodies that get conditioned and therefore Jiva is the conditioned consciousness.
The root cause of ignorance creates a sense of separateness, the limited identity, the “I”ness, commonly known as ego. The gross body drops at death but the other bodies still exist and carry into the next birth. Once one is enlightened the Jiva also drops and there is no false separateness. The soul is seen as a part of the whole.
The text also gives an introduction to other Vedic concepts such as the theory of Karma, the description of an enlightened person, etc. I think the knowledge in the Tattva Bodha is very important, a pre-requisite for understanding any further teachings in the Vedic scriptures on creation and consciousness.
This book is also available online as an eBook.
The house of the Self has many doors. If you’re a feeler you can enter through the doorway of devotion. If you’re a doer you can walk in through the path of right action. If you’re a thinker you can enter through the gateway of knowledge. Even though one aspect may be dominant, they all exist in each other. Each path is supreme, each one leads to a flavor of enlightenment.
Consciousness has created a beautiful diversity of great souls like Meera-devotion, Buddha-knowledge, and Mother Teresa- right action—each an example of using a different doorway to the Self. The Bhagavad Gita points this out in chapter thirteen, verses twenty-five and twenty-six:
“Some, by meditation, behold the Self in the Self by the Self; others by the “Yoga-of-Knowledge” (by Sankya Yoga) ; and others by Karma Yoga.Others also, not knowing this, worship, having heard of it from others; they too, cross beyond death, if they would regard what they have heard as their Supreme Refuge.”
- Bhagavad Gita. Ch 13 v 25-26.
They all lead to Self-knowledge, to the experience of the Self, and existential reality (your own nature).
Now I’m at the doorway of knowledge! I am ready to offer my body, mind, and ego into the sacrificial fire of the soul. Once I enter, where will I pass? Without my ego, who or what will I become? Tell me, oh, great soul— what is thy nature? I have read the great ones proclaim that it’s a futile exercise trying to explain your nature. Only indications can be given. What lies on the other side of this veil called Jiva? Have I visited there before? Will I still exist with a body, mind, and “I”? With great faith in my teacher and scriptures, I surrender to the unknown—ready to merge into infinitude. I want to know my soul. With great reverence, I plead, “O Guru! Please accept me as your humble student, let me enter
the house of self-knowledge.”