Brahman is within and one can surely realize this. For this, Chāndogya Upaniṣad (IV.15.1) lays down certain conditions. “How do you know the Self? You have to have complete self-discipline, gentle nature and you must withdraw the mind from material world. Then you can see the Self.” Everyone knows that Brahman is within. But we are not making any attempts to realize Him. He is in the closest possible range, in our own body, but due to our inherent spiritual ignorance, we run from one place to another, seeking Him in all the places except in His Abode, our very own body.
First, spiritual knowledge is required. Secondly, we need to have self-control. What is self-control? It is not self-denial. It is not necessary that one should live in a secluded place or resort to celibacy, to realize Him within. Here, self-control means acting on impulse, which causes desires and attachments. Let us take an example. Let us assume that X does not have a car, whereas all his neighbors have cars. X does not have a car because he has no means to buy a car. Knowing well that he cannot afford to buy a car, still he goes ahead and buys a car by resorting to borrowing. This is a clear case of impulsive buying that helps only to satiate his non-essential ego. If he is not associated with the material world, he would not have done this. He did not understand that the same society, if he fails, is not going to help him. This is called the effect of māyā. Resisiting such impulsive desires is self-denial. Gentle nature means lovable nature. One should have a broad mind to help others. If one finds happiness in helping others, his minds become purified. But, what is the relation between mind and lovable nature? When one learns to love others and share their concerns, the mind gets purified by getting rid of many negative thought processes. When the water is dirty, we clean a tank only with pure water and not with the existing dirty water. As long as multiple thoughts remain, the mind cannot be purified. Withdrawing from material world is possible if one gets rid of desires and attachments. Desires and attachments can be there, but there is a threshold and if this boundary is crossed, one gets engrossed in desires and attachments alone. Multiple examples can be cited here. A son works outside his homeland. It is alright to find out about his well being once in a while; instead, if he is contacted twice a day, then it means excessive attachment and affection. This should be dispensed with.
The question is when Brahman is within us as the Self, why should we search for Him elsewhere. Searching Him elsewhere is waste of time. Realize Him within and then go to other places and search Him. When one realizes Him within, he would not like to seek Him elsewhere. But there are many exceptions to this generalized statement. There were many sages and saints, who after Self-realization went to different places to impart Divine knowledge. One should understand that imparting spiritual knowledge should never be commercialised. It causes huge accumulation of bad karmas and sins. This is applicable both to the giver and the taker.
This sūtra reconfirms that the place of Brahman is within. A doubt may arise at this point, as some of the previous aphorism said that the self is within instead of the Self. Without the Self, self cannot exist. The Self remaining covered by māyā is the individual soul or the self. When we say individual soul, it automatically refers to the Self hidden by māyā. Māyā can be removed by knowledge and practice. In what way they help in realizing the Self? Only because of knowledge we are able to differentiate between the Self and the self. Had we not understood the difference, we will continue to be associated with the self that is covered by māyā, thinking that the individual soul is the Self. Having understood the differences between the Self and the self, where is the necessity for practice? We have decided to go to a place. First, we try to understand that place and its significance. Having understood its significance, we have to travel to that place to reach that place. This is how knowledge and practice help in realizing the Self. Spiritual knowledge and spiritual practice are the most essential factors in Self-realization.
What is the first stage of realizing the Self within? It is the experience of inexplicable happiness, which is known as bliss. When the mind is devoid of any disturbing thoughts, it becomes peaceful, as there is no agitation in the mind. When the mind is freed from material afflictions, the mind tends to think “I am That” because, Guru has said “You are That”. Now the mind ponders over the teaching of his or her Guru. It is not enough to say that “You are That”, but how one becomes That should be explained. This is what Brahma Sūtra does. How to realize Him as Brahman is to be explained step by step and a Guru will guide the aspirant stage by stage. This alone is true and authentic Guru-disciple relationship.
There is a reference in Chāndogya Upaniṣad (IV.10) which goes like this. “I know breath is Brahman, but I do not know space is Brahman. Now I know space is Brahman, but I do not know, Bliss is Brahman. Now I know Bliss is Brahman…..” This not only says that Brahman is everything and He alone manifests in different shapes, forms, energies, etc, but also He manifests as Bliss, which can be experienced by us. If He is not experienced through Bliss, how can one believe that Brahman exists at all? We enter into the state of Bliss only if we think about Him. Bliss has no reason; still we experience that inexplicable happiness. Therefore, Brahman exists in all shapes and forms and in order to attain Him, we have to make a beginning somewhere. This path can be taught by a Guru, step by step.
Guru alone can show the true path, the path followed by him to realize Brahman. Had he followed a different path, he would not have realized the Self. Only a scholar can become a professor and he has attained this position by his hard work and perseverance. He could answer any queries from his students and he can lead them to his level, as he knows the path he had traversed, which is bound to yield excellent results. Praśna Upaniṣad (I.10) explains how the Self can be realized. “By practicing self-control, having faith and by studying Scriptures, the Self can be realized.” Self-control is already discussed. But what is faith? Faith is the most essential factor in realization. Why it is so important? It is very important because, Brahman is subtle and not visible to our biological eyes. For example, diameter of the sun is 1.38 million Kilometers. It is said like that and we believe this statement. It could be right or wrong and as we have no means to exactly measure the diameter of the sun, we believe the findings of scientists. It is the unshakable faith that counts. We have to believe our Guru and we have to believe the invisible force that is the cause for creation, viz. Brahman. When we believe in something, we become that. When we believe in the invisible, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient Brahman, we also become Brahman. But, how do we know that we have become Brahman? It is felt by mental modifications, change in our attitude, experiencing inexplicable happiness, loving, caring and compassion for others.
Once Brahman is realized, the realized person is not the same as he was earlier. He is completely transformed and becomes almost like Brahman in qualities, attributes, etc. But at the same time, a realized person is not Brahman Himself. That happens only after his merger with Him. Merger with Brahman happens in stages. First he becomes a sthitaprajña, a yogī and a jīvanmukta and finally merges unto Him after his death. He is not born again.
None other than Brahman can be Brahman. For example, individual soul known as jīvan cannot attain the status of Brahman. One can realize Brahman, but cannot become Brahman, unless the merger with Him is complete in all respects. Till the river mergers into an ocean, identity of the river remains; similarly, till the individual soul shreds its māyā, individual soul remains only as a jīvan. However, within the jīvan, Brahman is present, otherwise, His omnipresence will become questionable. Further, no being or no object can grow without the presence of the Self within, hence, Self always remains as the cause and gross objects are its effect. So, whenever we speak of the Self, it always refers to Brahman and not an individual soul. When we talk about realization, it refers to realization of the Self within, which is the cause of the self.
There is yet another reason. Brahman alone remains eternal and the rest, one day or other bound to perish. Anything that undergoes modifications such as growth ultimately perishes. Every object that we are associated with in our daily life ultimately perishes, whereas, Brahman within is not subjected to growth. He always remains as a witness. It cannot be argued that He cannot witness our actions, as He is veiled by māyā. He can easily penetrate māyā as it is His own power, by which He casts a spell on all of us. It is called as spell, because spell is only temporary and can be removed with knowledge and practice.
Brahman is called as the Internal Ruler in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (III.vii.1). It asks, “Do you know that Internal Ruler, who controls this life as well as the next life and also controls all the beings by remaining within.” This clearly proves that without the Self, nothing can function. The Upaniṣad does not stop with this. It proceeds to say, “The one who knows Him, indeed knows Brahman.” This conclusively proves that the Internal Ruler is none other than Brahman. Realizing Him as the Internal Ruler (the Self within) is not difficult. What we need is a True Guru, spiritual knowledge and persistent practice (contemplation or meditation).
Vivekacūḍāmaṇi (429 and 429) beautifully summarises this discussion. It says, “He, whose prajñā (wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, discrimination, judgment) is steady, who has perpetual bliss, who has almost forgotten the material world (it is not said that one should forget the material world completely; it is only said that the material world should forgotten to the maximum possible extent), is accepted as a person liberated in this birth itself. He who even having his mind merged in Brahman is also quite alert; but at the same time, he is free from the characteristics of mundane active life, and whose realization is free from desires is accepted as a man liberated in this life (jīvanmukata).” A jīvanmukata is the one, who is liberated and still holds on his physical body to expend all his karmic impressions.