Why we need to understand Brahman? This question is answered by Muṇḍaka Upanishad (II.ii.5), which says, “On this Cosmic Self is resting everything – the heaven, the earth and the space in between (antarikṣa), mind and sense organs. Know this Cosmic Self, which is one (no second) and the same (omnipresence). Knowledge about this Self (spiritual knowledge as opposed to material knowledge) is the bridge to immortality (immortality here does not mean the deathless state of the gross body; it refers to immortal stage of the soul within, which has the Self within it; When the Self is covered by māyā, it is known as the self or individual soul). Do not waste your time by talking about anything else.”

This Upanishad verse clearly says why we should pursue spiritual path. Only at the end of spiritual path, one can attain liberation, provided he does not carry any karmic impressions. On the other hand, Trika philosophy argues that when Divine Grace is showered, at that very moment, all karmas are burnt. The reality is that when one pursues spiritual path, he stops accruing karmas as his mind is fully pervaded by Brahman. He will do all his normal activities but his mind always stand connected with Brahman. This state is known as sthitaprajña. To reach this state, one has to first understand Brahman. This is possible only through knowledge and Brahma Sutra imparts this knowledge; otherwise, we may have to go through various Upanishad-s. There are 108 important Upanishad-s and it is difficult to go through all these Upanishad-s, as we are always racing against time. The concept of Self-realization is explained extensively in Brahma Sutra by drawing several examples from important Upanishad-s, Bhagavad Gītā and other non-dualistic Scriptures. Śaṁkarācārya has given very elaborate interpretation on Brahma Sutra. There are two issues in understanding his interpretation; one is its vastness and second is frequent usage of complicated words. In order to mitigate this situation, every attempt is being made in this series to explain only the essence of aphorisms.

But one thing is for sure. No mantras, no meditation, no rituals can give liberation. Liberation can happen only in the arena of mind and mind alone. Mind by default is always prone to sensory inputs. Mind thrives only on sensory inputs and the mind is used to such sensory afflictions. As long as mind is affected by sensory inputs, mind cannot be cleansed and as long as the mind remains polluted, realization cannot happen. The one who is able to stabilize his mind with Divine pervasion is known as sthitaprajña. The real Bliss can be experienced only by a sthitaprajña. Others also could experience Bliss, but that is not the true bliss. It is a falsified bliss, falsified state of ānanda, which remains only for a few moments. Bliss is known as Brahmānanda, the state of rapturous absorption into Brahman. This is the penultimate state in the path of liberation. This is what we should aim for in this life. However, this does not mean that one should stay away from material life. This is an impossible task. This also does not mean that one should practice severe austerities.  None of these are preconditions are applicable to realize Him. What we need is only our mind. The mind should be trained in such a way that we think and act only on His behalf. When we eat, we have to believe and affirm that the Self within us eats, when we sleep, it is the Self within sleeps. This is true realization and this alone is advocated in various Scriptures. This is not saṁnyāsa. Saṁnyāsin need not always be a person with coloured attire. True saṁnyāsa means detachment from the material world (it is not necessary that a saṁnyāsin should live in a forest and eat only restricted food. For a true saṁnyāsin, what he eats, where he sleeps do not matter as he is not simply concerned with them. Today he may sleep in an air-conditioned room and tomorrow he will sleep in the hot sun; for him these material things do not matter).

Let us now understand the importance of realizing the Self within from the point of view of Nirvāṇopaniṣad, which is mainly meant for saṁnyāsin-s.  But the essence of this Upanishad is applicable to all of us. One need not be saṁnyāsin to follow these elucidations. The crux of this Upanishad is given below.

“I am nirvāṇa (nirvāṇa means dissolution of all dualities and re-union with Brahman; re-union because Brahman is the cause for our existence as we came from Him. Going back to Him is re-union). Now my knowledge is complete (understanding the difference between material knowledge and Divine knowledge is this completeness; material knowledge can never be complete, whereas Divine knowledge becomes complete when we realize the source of our origin). I got into this state of nirvāṇa only because of my Guru (without proper guidance from an able Guru, realization is surely not possible). Compassion is my joy and Divine Bliss is my garland. I converse with Brahman intimately (intimate because of easy accessibility; Brahman is within and one need not suffer by going around various places. On realization, one will surely understand how he has wasted his time). My conduct is like a swan (swan is capable of separating milk from water and drinks only the milk. The material world consists of both good and bad; what we need to do is to go with the good and ignoring the bad). For me there is no differentiation in gods like Brahmā, Viṣṇu or Śiva or Śakti as they all culminate in Brahman (he is not wasting his time in worshipping a particular shape or form; Brahman has no form or shape. Many are often curious to know about various forms and various types of worships, forgetting and ignoring the reality). My consciousness is Brahman (here consciousness is fixed on a formless form; he is not aware of anything that is happening around him). The deceptive world enveloped by Śiva and Śakti gets dissolved when I realize Brahman (Śiva and Śakti are only concepts that do not exist in reality; This is like showing a handmade globe to show how the earth appears in reality). As long as I am afflicted with ego, desires and attachments, I cannot speak about my karma (the one who is not able to dissolve his ego, material desires and material attachments can never get rid of their karmas; karmas are mostly accrued only through processes than actions).”

Reality is hard to accept and digest. Spiritual transformation has to happen in stages, for which a strong base is very important. Otherwise, the spiritual world that we enter into will fall like a pack of cards. Brahma Sutra takes us through various stages and ultimately makes us to merge with Brahman. Why we suffer at some point of time in our lives? It is because of our accrued karmas. Karmas have to be experienced and there is no other way, except to experience them. At least, in future, we can avoid further accrual of karmas by leading a selfless life.

Brahma Sutra I.iii consists of 43 aphorisms, which is now being taken up for discussion from the next article onwards.

More related articles:

Brahma Sutra I.ii.24 - 31

Brahma Sutra - I.iii.1 - 6