Understanding Philosophies – Part 13 and Advaita philosophy - Part 4.
Ego is one of the major impediments is realizing the Self. There are two types of ego; essential ego and inflated or non-essential ego. Essential ego is also known as individual consciousness, without which, even our physical bodies cannot be identified. Inflated ego is unwanted and avoidable pride. Essential ego coexists along with our consciousness. Consciousness is awareness about us with relation to others. Without consciousness, knowledge is not possible. Unless someone is aware himself, he cannot become knowledgeable. There are two types of knowledge – material knowledge and spiritual knowledge. The former is the knowledge that we gain through our worldly interactions, using our sensory organs. But spiritual knowledge is gained only through mind, as there is nothing to see and understand. Material knowledge is attained through organs of perception like hearing, seeing, touching, smelling and tasting. Organs of perception send impressions to the mind and depending upon the types of impressions it receives, mind sends different types of commands to different organs to act. An object is viewed differently by different persons. Let us take the case of an apple. One person looks only at the beautiful shape of the apple, another one thinks about its taste, another one its origin, etc. On the same object, different people have different thoughts and this is the reason for different mindset for different people. It depends upon how we look at an object. This is decided by quality of one’s mind. All minds are not the same. The quality of the mind is decided primarily by one’s karmas and secondarily by one’s environment, such as parentage, lineage, society, friends, etc.
When one says “I am That”, where I refers to his consciousness and That refers to Brahman or God. I not only refer to his consciousness but also his essential ego. Instead of using his essential ego, if he uses the inflated ego, then this statement does not have any significant value. Using only the essential ego is spirituality and using only the inflated ego is the material life, leading to pride and arrogance. Essential ego is inherent and inflated ego is acquired. “I am going to my work place” is a statement and I used here is only the essential ego. “I can do whatever I want” is also a statement where I used here is predominated by inflated ego. Why it is inflated ego? Here emphasis is more on the individual self rather than his capacity to perform. I can do whatever I want is a statement that is impracticable and impossible to accept, because of the simple reason that he is not omnipotent. Inflated ego always leads only to disaster. When there is inflation, deflation will automatically follow. This is the reason for downfall of dictators and arrogant people.
For a realized person, there will be no inflated ego, not even a trace. However, he also cannot exist without the inherent or essential ego. When someone addresses him, his ego and consciousness combine has to be present to even look at the caller. Beyond this point, a realized person will not have any other ego, because he is fully aware that he is only a miniscule of God’s omnipresence. He sees God in everything and in every person. Unlike a person who is fully engrossed in the material world, a realized person does not look at the material world as the combination of various objects. He also looks at the material world only as the material world, but he looks at the material world as God’s manifestation and as a result he sees God in all the objects that he sees. Thus, he truly understands God’s omnipresence. Except for identifying his own body, he never uses his ego. He understands that whatever he has, is the gift of God to him. God does not gift anyone straightaway. God works only through “Law of Karma”. Since he is fully aware of this reality, he undergoes both pleasure and pain with an equipoise mind. A person who has this state of the mind is called sthitaprajña. Only this understanding, which is known as the spiritual knowledge, will not cause inflated ego. Before the grandeur of God, His Grace and Glory, he is nothing but a miniscule. If this reality is understood in true sense, his thoughts will become focused only on the Cause and not on the effect. Cause is one, but effects are many. Cause is God and effect is the material world. As human beings, we stand in the midpoint between cause and effect. If we turn towards our left, we see the Cause, God and if we turn towards our right, we see the effect, the material world. Thus, we are cats on a wall. It is our mind in combination with karmic account makes us to decide which side we turn. The mind is always influenced by karmic account, which is nothing but the accumulated impressions in the subconscious mind through innumerable births. It is only the subconscious mind that transmigrates, which is attached to the causal body. Subtle body is the mind. When the time is ripe for karma to manifest, the impressions of the karma percolate from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind begin to sprout in the mind and then manifest at the appointed time.
The cause of karma is inflated ego. Inflated ego arises only because of not knowing that God is the cause of our existence. The mind, instead of identifying itself with God, identifies itself with his non-essential ego, which becomes inflated with pride, prejudice, hatred, love, desire, attachment, etc. In other words, he is engulfed in the world of duality, which is shunned by Advailta. Non-dualism is the essence of Advaita. According Advaita, it is only Brahman who is present in all the sentient and insentient beings as the subtlest element called as Soul (Capital or upper case S is used to refer Brahman and lower case s is used to mean the Soul within the beings. Upper case Soul is Brahman with His full Glory and lower case soul is bound by the influenced by māyā and ignorance.) A realized person will not identify himself differently from Brahman. When he talks about Brahman, he talks about himself and when he talks about himself, he talks about Brahman. This stage is possible only through a perfected mind that is devoid of serious karmic afflictions. This stage can be reached only if one’s karmic account permits and liberation is possible only in a human birth, as liberation is attained through the mind.
When one poses a question to himself “Who am I”, a non-realized person also may say “I am Brahman”, but he does not say this with confidence and faith. He says this with an unconvincing mind and not with an affirmative mind. The cause of his unconvinced mind is lack faith and ignorance. Faith and knowledge are the two pillars of Advaita philosophy. The one that can only be experienced but not seen is the basis of faith in God. We know His omnipresence, but we fail to realize the truth, only because of lack of faith. Knowledge makes one understand His omnipresence, as every spiritual texts talk about His omnipresence. Repeated readings of quality spiritual texts help in acquiring the right kind of spiritual knowledge. But the knowledge is to be correlated with faith in His existence. This alone will help in enlightenment. Dissolving the traces of non-essential ego is a crucial prerequisite to realization. As long such ego is present, the conscious mind attempts to correlate everything on a comparative basis, thereby causing disturbance in one’s consciousness. Unless consciousness is fixed on God, realizing Him is not possible. Non-essential ego makes him to evaluate himself by drawing comparison to others and in the process, the aspirant becomes more self centered rather than realizing the Self within.
Non-essential ego has a direct bearing on one’s karma. Karma is a personal record book of every individual being, where every minute detail is recorded from birth to death. At the time of death, recording of karmas in the present birth get condensed and added up to the already existing un-ripened karmic account in the causal body. Karmic account is always present in the causal body, which alone travels along with the soul. Karmic account is not embedment in the soul as soul always remains the same without undergoing any additions and deletions. Soul is always a causal factor and without the help of the soul, no mobility is possible for the causal body, where highly condensed karmic account is embedded. Karma is of three types – sañcita, prārabdha, and āgāmi. Sañcita is the sum total of all karmas recorded over past several births. Prārabdha is that portion of sañcita karma which is carved out of sañcita and made to be effective during this birth. Now the doer has only two options with prārabdha karma. Either he can spend it totally or add further karmas to it. The net of prārabdha karma is added to āgāmi karma to become later as sañcita karma. These three types of karmas can be explained as past, present and feature karmic accounts.
Every person acts through two tools, mind and organs of action. Without any command from the mind, organs of action cannot act independently. The mind passes on instructions to the organs of action from the input it receives through the organs of perception. It is ultimately the mind, which alone decides all the actions of the body. Between the mind and the organs of action, mind is far more powerful, as it is only the mind that makes a person to act. Like soul is the cause for our existence, mind is the cause for all our actions. Without a cause, there cannot be any existence. Mind not only gives command to organs of action but also develops within itself, thought processes. Thought processes arise due to impressions caused in the mind by organs of perception. Not all the impressions are translated into actions by the mind. Some impressions are retained in the mind and some impressions are made to manifest as actions. The retained impressions do not remain as impressions always. At some point, these impressions manifest and cause actions. By chance, if these impressions are not made to manifest in the present birth, they become converted into karmic imprints to manifest during subsequent births. As the mind is the most powerful instrument, impressions generated by the mind is more powerful than the actions. Let us take two examples. Person A thinks that person C should be doomed. He only thinks, and does not make anything in action to make C doom. Person B hits person C due to some issues and B forgets this after hitting B and there the matter ends. Between A and B, the thought of A is more powerful than the action of B. A acts through his mind and B acts through action and between these two, A accrues worst karmas than B, based on the concept that mind is more powerful than action.
Karmas continue to accrue as long as non-essential ego is present in some form or other. To put it differently, as long as one thinks that he is the doer, karmas accrue for all his actions, both good and bad. If the doership is transferred to God, further karmas do not accrue. This is because, the aspirant’s ego is completely dissolved and he only acts for and on behalf of God. But this transfer cannot happen just by a statement. It has to happen through a complete transformation of the mind. The inherent nature of the mind of associating itself with “I” should be annihilated. This can be done only by uniting his individual consciousness with God Consciousness by means of practicing contemplation, which is known as meditation. This is what is known as surrender unto God. When this surrender takes place with a firm mind, from that point onwards, his karmas cease to accrue. However, he has to completely exhaust all his karmas. There should be no trace of any karma in his karmic account. This happens, only when sañcita karma is already exhausted and there is nothing in the prārabdha karma for carrying over to āgāmi karma. The moment he exhausts the last traces of his karmic imprints, he becomes a jīvanmukta and awaits his time of death to become one with God.
(discussions on Advaita will continue)