Vedānta series 34

Towards the end, Tattvabodha discusses about realising the Self. It further explains the difference between Īśvara and jīva. The one with ego and limited knowledge is jīva and the one without ego and omniscient is Īśvara. Jīva is limited by both by ego and knowledge which is exactly opposite to Īśvara, who is infinite (not limited by ego) and omniscient (not limited by knowledge). When jīva realizes its unity with Īśvara, jīva can honestly say ‘I am That’ and this is Self realization. ‘I am That’ or ‘you are That’ or ‘aham Brahmāsmi’ are called mahāvākya-s. Mahāvākya-s mean great sayings and are found in Upaniṣad-s, as Upaniṣad-s alone declare the Brahman by negations, affirmations and by drawing perceptible comparisons.

How jīva can affirm that he is Īśvara? Apart from māyā, two important factors that prevent realisation of the Self are ego and knowledge. Both ego and knowledge are the limiting factors in jīva. Since Īśvara is devoid of any limiting factors, he becomes omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. From this, one can understand that Īśvara and jīva are opposite to each other. Because of the limiting factors of jīva, it develops fear, anxiety, desires, attachments, and all the associated complexities. Because jīva is limited by ego and knowledge, its consciousness is also limited and is known as individual consciousness. These are absent in Īśvara because he is not limited by anything and hence, all his attributes and qualities are prefixed by omni. Because of no limiting factors in Īśvara, his consciousness is known as universal consciousness in its purest form. When they are opposite to each other, how can jīva realize that it is not different from Īśvara? When mahāvākya-s use the word ‘you’ it refers to a person who identifies himself with the gross and subtle bodies. The word ‘That’ in mahāvākya-s refer to Īśvara, where there are no limiting factors. Everything associated with Īśvara is infinite.

Jīva can realize that it is not lower than Īśvara, provided the perception of jīva undergoes a radical change from limited to infinite. A jīva has two options before it. One is to remain as jīva, totally limited by everything. Because of the presence of all limiting factors in it and no limiting factors in Īśvara, jīva illusively considers Īśvara as the one seated on a pedestal. In other words, jīva considers Īśvara as someone superior to it, though in reality, jīva is not different from Īśvara. This ignorance in jīva is caused by māyā. Unless one understands māyā, it is difficult to transcend māyā and unless one is able to transcend māyā, he cannot realise the Self, also known as the Brahman, the sat-cit-ānanda.

One’s consciousness has to traverse beyond the three bodies, tattva-s, indriya-s (organs of action and perception), anthaḥkaraṇa and everything else to identify with the all pervading Īśvara. Realisation of the Brahman happens only if all the thoughts in the mind are completely eradicated leading to the state of samādhi, where the Brahman alone pervades. A spiritually advanced person is able to establish his connection with the Brahman only in the state of samādhi and with good amount of practice, he becomes a jīvanmukta.