(Immediated and Direct Self-Realization)

Discourse By - BrahmaShri Yellamraju Srinivasa Rao

(Advaita Teacher)

aparokShAnubhUti, jnAna shAstra

aparokShAnubhUti is a short treatise of 144 verses on the Science of Self-knowledge (jnAna shAstra) by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. It describes the most Direct Path method of Self-realization right here and now.

The clear and lucid verses of Sri Shankara, further elucidated by Brahmasri Yellamraju Srinivasa Rao garu, facilitate an immediated and direct experience of brahman, the Non-Dual Universal Reality.

In an attempt to share the great wisdom of these great sages with the English-speaking Advaita Vedanta students of the world, Dr. Ramesam Vemuri and Ms. Padma Neppalli have made a humble effort to transcribe and translate into English the speeches given by Sri. Yellamraju garu over a course of eight days. It is not an exact word to word transcription but corresponds broadly to the talk in Telugu by Shri Guruji.

Dr. Ramesam Vemuri retired as an Adviser in the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. He is the author of the book Religion Demystified, and has also translated from Telugu to English several philosophical works, such as the Yogavasishta and Yogataravali. His articles appear regularly at many Advaita web sites.

Padma Neppalli is a student of Advaita Vedanta. She has been listening to Sri Yellamraju Srinivas Rao’s lectures for over ten years. She is a technical writer by profession, and currently works as the Director of Information Development in a semi-conductor company in California, USA.

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWiqh_EvP74

Om namo gurubhyaH

The text, aparokShAnubhUti, is a short treatise of 144 verses on the Science of Self-knowledge (jnAna shAstra). It is quite different from the Science of Yoga (yoga shAstra) of Patanjali. It is in anuShTup meter. It is very concise in expression, but the content is highly profound and powerful.

aparokShAnubhUti is a well-known prakaraNa grantha of Shankara. It is different from his commentaries on the traditional texts (scriptures). Although the text is crisp, the meaning it conveys is as deep and comprehensive as his commentaries. While his commentaries contain long complex discussions and polemic debates on opposing views, the prakaraNa granthas written by him are short monographs. They focus on key concepts of Advaita without any diversion, and cover smoothly the entire course of the subject matter. Their style is simple and intelligible to all. “dakShinAmUrti stotra,” “nirvANa ShaTkam” etc. are examples for other monographs in the genre of aparokShAnubhUti penned by him.

Shankara was a genius of an incomparable ability in his observation of people and nature. He grouped spiritual aspirants into three categories based on their capacity to grasp complex concepts: the best, the intermediary and the slow types.

Students of the first type (best) comprehend things even before an instruction is given. They infer and learn through keen observation of the nature. The visible world is a great teacher, the Supreme Guru for them. Their Guru, thus, is none other than the Supreme Self, Itself.

We say we worship the Supreme Guru:

कृष्णं वंदे जगद्गुरुम् |

[KrishnaM vande jagadgurum.]

We also recite the guru lineage as,

नारायणं पद्मभुवं वसिष्ठं शक्तिं तत् पुत्र पराशरं च |

[nArAyaNaM, padmabhuvaM, vasiShTaM, shaktiM ca tat putra parAsharaM ca.]

Who is the first Guru? He is Narayana. What does Narayana mean? “nAraM” means the five fundamental elements. ayanaM” means substratum, support. So Narayana is he who pervades the five elements and is the substratum of everything in the visible world. The visible world is, therefore, a superimposition on Narayana. There cannot be a superimposition without a substratum. The substratum is the root of everything as stated in the Bhagavad Gita:

ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् -- Ch. XV, verse 1, Bhagavad-Gita.

[Urdhwa mUlaM; adhaH shAkhaM.]

That is the form of Narayana. He is the Guru. His teaching is through “Silence”

मौनव्याख्या प्रकटित परब्रह्मतत्त्वं युवानं | -- 1, dakShiNAmUrti stora dhyAnam

[mauna vyAkhyA prakatita brahma tatvam, yuvAnam.]

This is the description of the Lord Dakshinamurti, who teaches in Silence. True teaching is Silence only. Why so?

Words, however abundant and expressive, are still limited. Silence, on the other hand, is complete and perfect. A single word uttered shatters the infinite Silence into pieces. An experience in general and a spiritual experience in particular, loses its intensity and gets diluted once it is expressed in words.

The spoken word is an expression of the thought that preceded it. A thought is a vibration, a movement, a perturbance. You can hear your thoughts. So a thought is also like a word! When a thought is not articulated, it is heard by you alone. If it is uttered it is heard by all. Speech is a movement in the mouth.

A word first takes shape as a thought in the mind, then forms into a word in the mouth, and is finally expressed externally as speech by the body. Mind, speech, and body are instruments of action, so they are the source of movement. No movement is ever perfect. It is always limited. A wave in the ocean moves, but does not pervade the entire ocean. It is finite and limited. Water is unlimited and pervades the entire ocean. The ocean does not move, it is still. Stillness is Silence. Silence is all-pervading.

In contrast, word is movement. It is limited. It cannot pervade everything, but is pervaded by the Supreme Self. The Supreme Self is expansive, space-like. Hence, It is formless. The Supreme Self is the Guru that pervades all. His words are formless, so permeate everything as Silence.

The seeker of the first kind approaches the Supreme Guru and receives the silent teaching. Such a seeker is the Upanishadic Sage. Thus, the seekers of the best category don’t need any instructions from anyone. They receive the vibrations directly from nature and draw their lessons from the world itself. Examples for such seekers are Prahlada and Kuchela. Since we in turn receive the teaching from such a Sage, we are “twice removed from Truth,” as Plato said.

Knowledge implies deciphering the unknown from the known. From an observation of the world, the effect, the seeker of the first kind will be able to directly infer the originator (the cause) of the world. The seeker of the Intermediate category will learn only if a Guru teaches him. He understands the word of the teacher and practices what is learnt to firm up his understanding.

Seekers of the third category will not understand the truth even after an instruction is given to them by the teacher. They cannot follow logical deduction. They can arrive at the truth only through an illustrative metaphor. They first appreciate the meaning of the metaphor, see the reason behind it, and then grasp the truth. They learn slowly. But there are people who are totally incapable of grasping the truth. They fall into the fourth category – the extremely slow type. Those people are unfit to learn the truth. Human life is wasted by them. They have no value for the spiritual world. We will not be concerned with such people. Shankara’s teaching, and in fact all Vedantic teaching, is addressed to the top three categories.

Seekers of the first category do not need any instruction from Shankara, since they are at the same level as him. However, to be sure they have correctly understood the truth, they need to assess and validate their understanding with that of the established elders, who are experts in the field. It is for their sake that Shankara had written the commentaries on the three canonical texts prasthAna traya.

If you are a seeker of the first category, study these texts, grasp the essence of the teaching, and internalize the understanding (the Truth) experientially. These commentaries help test one’s ability in assimilating the Truth. The one who can stand to that test is indeed the best seeker. That is a real challenge.

Shankara wrote short treatises for the sake of the intermediate or the second type of seekers. These treatises are like manuals. The entire gamut of the teaching is comprehensively presented at one place in a straight forward and clear manner, and in simple words. They are direct and crystal clear. Unlike commentaries, the treatises do not contain twisted or complex arguments. The commentaries are more combative in style, debating in detail the Vedantin’s theory, while demolishing all the opposing views. They make a statement, take up an argument, question the argument, and raise questions on questions. They proceed in that fashion, making it difficult to follow the logic and reasoning, unless one is very intelligent and sharp in mind.

The second or the intermediate type of seekers need to be instructed in a simple and straightforward manner so that they can confidently say that they understood the essence of the teaching. The short treatises written by Shankara meet the needs of these seekers. We can safely claim that we belong to the second category without overrating our brilliance or condemning ourselves too much. With such an attitude, we will find the treatises to be highly satisfying to our intellect.

Shankara has written over a hundred of the treatises. The most significant of those are the dakShinAmUrti stotra, nirvANa ShaTkam, aparokShAnubhUti, anAtmaShrivikarhaNa, swAtma nirUpaNa, upadesha sAhashrI, sarvavedAnta siddhAnta sArasangrahaH, and a few others. The present book, aparokShAnubhUti stands out among them as a very deep, concise, yet profound work. It encompasses the entire doctrine, the praxis, and the achievement of the goal.

For the third (slow) category of seekers, Shankara wrote many “Hymns of Praise for Worshiping” different Gods/Goddesses. An example is the composition of bhajagovindam verses. It asks the seeker to worship Govinda. Shankara upbraids the slow seeker with the words:

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं, गोविन्दं भज मढूमते|

संप्राप्तेसंनिहितेकालेिहि िहि रक्षनत डुक्ंुकरणे||

[Bhajagovindaṁ bhajagovindaṁ govindaṁ bhajamūḍhamate | samprāpte sannihite kāle nahi nahi rakśati ḍukṛñkaraṇe || ]

Meaning: O Fool! Seek Govinda, Seek Govinda, Seek Govinda. When the appointed time (death) comes churning on the-rules of grammar will surely not save you.

Thus Shankara rebukes first, but later teaches with compassion a grammarian lost in a study of the rules of the grammar about the root verb “kri” (to do) and how to parse the word in all the three tenses etc. He reminds the grammarian that when death approaches there will be no time left. One has to get ready to leave the body, take up a long travel to some unknown destination.

This Hymn known as Mohamudgara is a great teaching. It comprises 14 captivating verses written by Shankara, followed by 12 more verses added by his twelve disciples. These 26 verses are adequate to help us transcend the miseries of the world.

We shall now take up the study of aparokShAnubhUti meant for the second type, mid-level seekers like us, with the silent blessings of Shankara. It is a superb text, and we shall cover it in eight days. Though we study it for eight days, we have to reflect, deeply contemplate and meditate on its teaching till the end of our life. It may be said to be worthy of reflection for a life time.

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-okBWhkHEs&t=199s

[Note: Shri YSR gave Talks on Patanjali Yogasutra-s for 10 days preceding his Talks on aparokShAnubhUti.

So he makes a reference to that series of talks and also compares how Patanjali's Yoga differs from Shankara's Advaita principles. The Series of talks here is complete and there is no need for the Reader to have to go back to the talks on Patanjali. All the matter relevant here is present and not missing.]

We discussed Patanjali’s Yoga shAstra. Now we are talking about jnAna shAstra. But what is yoga and what is jnAna? Let’s clarify that first.'mso-spacerun:yes'>

What we want is Liberation (mOkshA). We have already dropped two of the four prescribed Pursuits for our Life (purushArtha-s), wealth (artha) and desires (kAma), since they are in the realm of the visible world. The pursuit of dharma (righteousness), though it belongs to the ‘other’ world, does not yield what we are seeking (liberation) because dharma does not free us from rebirth.

Whatever is righteous (dharma), leads to merit, and whatever is not righteous, leads to demerit. Performance of only righteous deeds selectively may help us accumulate plenty of merit, but that merit is no more than “golden fetters.”

The Upanishad says:

तद्यथेह कर्मजितो लोकः क्षीयत एवमेवामुत्र पुण्यजितो लोकः क्षीयते chAndogya Upanishad, XVIII-i-6

tad yateha karma-jito lokah kshIyate evam evamutra punya- jito lokah kshIyate …”

Meaning: Just as the fruits of our actions in this lifetime are all ultimately destroyed, so also will the benefits in the next life be ultimately destroyed.

Bhagavad-Gita tells us:

क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्यलोकं विशन्ति -- BG, IX-21

[kShINe puNye martya lokaM vishanti.]

As the merit gets exhausted, one enters the world of mortals.

Therefore, it is inevitable that we are born again into the world of birth and death (samsAra), as soon as the merit or demerit we earned is exhausted. Thus the pursuit of the righteous path of dharma (or religion) will not prevent us from being born again and again.

Hence the first three of the Pursuits (dharma, artha, kAma) are of no use in preventing future births. Our interest is in liberation. Liberation is being free from all these things. “All these things”, literally means every one of them. Get out of 99 things. You will realize that the One thing that remains Alone, the hundredth one, is you. When that is the case, there is nothing left to trouble ‘Me’ anymore, because the rest of the 99 have already merged into ‘Me.’

eko nArAyaNa --- ??

ekameva advitIyaM -- chAndogya, VI-ii-1.

He alone is there.

When ‘I am’ the only one, there is nothing else to cause trouble. All trouble arises only if there is a second one. This is fundamental to Advaita. Whether it is good or bad, there is scope for interaction only when there is someone other than ‘myself.’

If I alone exist and if I am certain that there is nothing other than ‘Me,’ that in itself is liberation. There is nothing more to it. Do not listen to myths and what some others say about it. They suggest visiting pilgrimage centers or living in a sacred place etc. for the attainment of salvation. Where can one go? Is there any place at all to go? Even if you reach a heavenly abode, you are still in the world – a world of some other denizens. You may call them gods or ethereal beings. What difference does it make? In what way do they differ from you? Don’t they also have a finite form? Why then talk about them as though they are some superior entities? If you put them on a pedestal, obviously they are not you. If they are not-you, they can compete with you one time or the other.

Therefore, you are safe and secure only when there is no other to oppose you. That is liberation, attainment of Aloneness (kaivalya), apavarga (final beatitude), etc. It may go by any name, that’s immaterial. But didn’t the Yogis of the yogic path also say so? If the path of yoga also says so, why bother about the path of Knowledge?

Well, the Yogis do speak about your original form (swarUpa), the process (sAdhana) of getting back to it, and the nature of the final goal (siddhi).

Yoga sUtra says:

tadA draShTuh swarUpe avasthAnam” – Yoga sUtra, 1.3

”The human being will attain his original form.”

What is the nature of that form? It is Consciousness. It has no attachments because it does not possess any guNa-s (qualities). That’s what Patanjali said. Patanjali called that original form as puruSha. He is not jIva (individual). “puruSha” means complete, perfect. Perfection is when there is freedom from the three guNa-s (satva, rajas and tamas and no attachment to anything. It exists by itself. This is the negative aspect. On the positive side, it has consciousness. If you exist with the knowledge that “I am”, then it is kaivalya, Aloneness.

The intrinsic nature of Aloneness is explained in the above manner. What is the means of achieving it? The process is to get rid of the impediments that prevent you from realizing it. Patanjali’s system identifies the impediments as the thought-waves and their derivatives, called impressions (tendencies – vAsanA-s).

Thought waves become apparent in the awake and dream states. The impressions come up during deep sleep. Thus we are tormented by the thought-waves or the impressions in all the three states of consciousness. That is bondage. That is samsAra (the cycle of births and deaths). What is to be done, then? Patanajli’s advice is to escape from them. His suggestion is to control the thought-waves through samAdhi, adopting either the samprajnAta or the asamprajnAta samAdhi.

Thus Patanjali defined the true nature of the puruSha, the process of getting back to it, and the outcome, kaivalya. “kaivalya” is to be free from the vice grip of prakriti, the nature which operates with the three guNa-s.

In other words, extricate yourself from prakriti with the firm conviction that you are different from it, and it is different from you, and then abide in your own intrinsic nature. This is the state of being Alone. Being Alone is kaivalya (Aloneness). That itself is liberation. Under these circumstances, prakriti will not be able to affect you.

As you can see from the above discussion, the path of yoga addresses the problem completely. Why then should you explore the path of Knowledge?

Is it because you are not satisfied with the path of yoga that you turn to the path of Knowledge? If you are satisfied, why do you explore the Knowledge path at this stage? If you switch to the Knowledge path now, it implies that you did not attain the goal, kaivalya, through the yogic path.

In order to understand this better, let’s consider an example from our modern way of life. At the time of elections, every leader pushes his/her agenda onto the public, making impossible promises in an attempt to lure them into supporting his/her group. There is absolutely no limit to the promises they make about a comfortable future if you support them. How many of these promises are genuine and how many of the leaders can deliver what they promise? Very rare indeed is the true leader who is true to his word.

Similarly, when the yogis promise kaivalya, the state of “I Am” or “Aloneness”, they are only making empty promises. The “lone” being that they talk about can only be the a-dvaitin (non-dualist), and none else!

Let us see how we can justify that.

kaivalya” is liberation, it is freedom. Freedom from what?

The Advaitin poses a question here: Is liberation something that is acquired at a later time, or has it been there with us right from the beginning?

This is a highly significant question.

Had you been free from the very beginning, there is no need to make some new effort to get liberation now. If the yogis say that you have to make an effort to get it now, it implies that it did not exist previously, so you have to obtain it newly now.

Advaitins then ask, if something did not exist previously and is obtained in the middle, will it survive till the end?

Anything that is acquired in-between will be lost after a certain time. Only that which does not appear in-between exists till the end.

If you have not been free from the beginning, and you get liberated at a later time, it means that bondage has been beginningless (anAdi) for you. Since the bondage ends on the attainment of liberation, it has an end-point or “sa-antam.” In other words, bondage is anAdi and sa-antam.

What about liberation?

Because liberation is said to come at an intermediate point of time, it has a beginning (sa- Adi). Because it is said to be unending, it is ananta or endless.

But Advaitins postulate that, that which is beginningless (anAdi) will also be endless (Ananta); and that which has a beginning (sa-Adi), will also have an end (sa-anta).

According to Yoga, bondage has been beginningless. How can it then have an end? The Yogi cannot answer the question.

Likewise, if, liberation comes at an intermediate point of time, it cannot be unending. It has to end. In that case, there is no liberation. What actually would exist is bondage only.

How would the Yogis solve this problem?

Yogis accuse the Advaitins of playing with words. They say that they have got the eightfold path of aShTAnga yoga to obtain liberation. But this statement begs a serious question.

Who is it that gets liberation?

The Yogi answers: Liberation is for ‘me’ only.

Advaitin: Is there anything else? If you say there is nothing else, how could you know liberation?

Yogi: Oh, no. There are two other things

Advaitin: What are they?

Yogi: One is pradhAnam (prakriti), the nature. The other is Ishwara, the force that controls the creation and dissolution of the manifested world.

Advaitin: If so, please appreciate that prakriti being inert, does not need liberation. After all nature is blind and lame. It is not conscious. An unconscious thing, say like this chair here, cannot experience either happiness or unhappiness. Health or illness are both experiences. Bondage and liberation also have to be experienced. Only Consciousness or Knowledge can know experience. As you declared, prakriti as unconscious. So liberation is not necessary for it.

Ishwara is conscious, but his Consciousness is Perfect, Complete. Therefore, he does not require liberation.

Who then is in need of liberation?

Yogi: Liberation is required for you and me.

Advaitin: You called us as “puruSha-s.”

Yogi: Yes.

Advaitin: We call ourselves jIva (individual). Never mind the names. What is our intrinsic nature as per the Yogis?

Yogi: “puruSha” is attributeless and unattached.

Advaitin: If so, you will agree that puruSha or jIva does not have the three guNa-s like the prakriti. He does not have the satva, rajas, and tamas like nature. He has no attachments or links with anything.

What is it that cannot be linked with any guNa-s? What is its intrinsic nature like?

Yogi: Consciousness, it is the Knowledge that I Am. It has no qualities.

Advaitin: Okay, then does it have a form or is it formless? You see, Consciousness is ever formless. If a thing is formless, it has to be all-pervading. In that case, an individual (jIva) cannot stay contracted to a specific finite body. He has to be all-pervading.

The yogi has no ready reply to that question. Patanjali, however, tries to answer:
avidyA asmitA rAga dveShA abhiniveshA kleshA …” – Patanjali yoga sUtra, 2.3

Meaning: There are five kleshas or states of the mind: avidyA, asmita, raga, dvesha, and abhinivesha (ignorance. egoism, attachment, aversion, and fear of death (or desire for continuity)).

That is an evasive response, not a direct answer.

How can the puruSha who does not have any guNa-s and no attachments become attached to the body? How did he get linked to the life-force (prANa)? How did he get linked to the mind?

Because of the existence of some attachments, he is subjected to bondage. If there is no bondage, he is already a liberated being. There would be no reason for him to look for liberation. He is, by his very intrinsic nature, free of the guNa-s, is ever conscious, and totally non-attached to anything; he is the all-pervading Consciousness. That being so, he is not bound by the cycle of births and deaths.

Patanjali declared that the reason for bondage is nescience (avidyA).

But the concept of nescience comes from Vedanta.

The Yogi had to accept the concept of avidyA. There is no alternative for him.

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_fh2VeuDRQ

Well, the question that comes up now is what is avidyA or ajnAna, nescience?

Patanjali defined ajnAna as the inability to conceive that I am separate from the guNa-s of the prakriti (nature), and that I am not related to nature. Mind gets engendered because of this inability. Mind consists of the three guNa-s – satva, rajas, and tamas. They impinge on the AtmA.

The Vedantins question the above concept. Since AtmA is formless and all-pervading, mind cannot impinge on it. Mind and prakriti, both being made up of the three guNa-s, are of the same type. They cannot affect one other. When I am not linked to prakriti itself, how can the mind affect me? How can ajnAna then be defined in that way? After all, ajnAna (according to the yogis) is the feeling that I am not separate from prakriti, or, in other words, that I am one with it. How can the puruSha think that he is one with prakriti, non-different from the mind and nature?

Secondly, the Yogis say that prakriti is the ‘doer’ (karta) and the individual (jIva) is the experiencer (bhokta). But this is also a huge mistake. The individual, as per this view, can only experience things but cannot “act.” He cannot make any effort. Effort is assumed to be entirely located in prakriti. This is a double whammy, according to Vedanta. After all, prakriti is inert. How can an inert substance have “doership,” an ability to act? Any action has to be preceded by a thought, a desire (samkalpa). No work is done in the absence of a desire. Desire implies the presence of consciousness (jnAna). If consciousness is present, it cannot be an inert thing.

Further, if the mind can impinge on the individual and bind him, it will be impossible to be freed from the mind’s vice grip. The Yogis hold that prakriti bestows the individual with experience and also beatitude. Experience is the ability to have happiness and sorrow, and beatitude is the ability to free oneself from the experience of happiness and sorrow. In other words, prakriti has the power to bind the individual as well as to release him. The individual is totally at the mercy of prakriti. The individual is helpless in the matter as he does not have doership (kartrutva). The individual has no choice but to face whatever prakriti throws at him. There is no scope for the individual to do anything against it, unless prakriti itself frees him.

But then, why would prakriti, which is the cause for bondage to start with, release the individual from bondage? One cannot imagine any reason for it to release the individual (jIva), since it cannot make an arbitrary decision to set some individuals free, some to keep in bondage for a longer time, and so on. This cannot be a valid theory.

Hence it would be a serious mistake to suggest that prakriti is independent. Moreover, if prakriti is independent, it would imply that the individual does not have independence. On one hand, yogis hold that the individual does not have independence, but insist that he observes practices (sAdhana). It is not possible to do any sAdhana without independence and doership. How then could that instruction be valid?

Another point to note. Yoga cannot hold that the individual is attributeless and unattached. If the individual is attributeless and unattached, he would be all-pervading and nothing would affect him. prakriti also cannot do any harm to him. Thus, this concept of Patanjali’s is also wrong.

Yoga speaks of Ishwara. What does Ishwara mean? He is the one who controls all and on whom everything depends. Does he control prakriti or not? In order to justify his name, one has to agree he controls prakriti. If so, prakriti cannot be independent. Who made her independent? You have to speak in terms of prakriti being a power (Shakti) under the control of Ishwara. prakriti cannot be said to be independent. If she has independence, she would not care even for Ishwara. She would have been controlling all the individuals by herself. She must be throwing them in bondage and setting them free again and again at her will and fancy. If prakriti is capable of doing this, why is an Ishwara suggested?

The next question to address is whether Ishwara is all-pervading or not. He cannot be. Why? If he is the efficient cause, he cannot be all-pervading. Pervasion is possible only if he is the material cause. The potter cannot pervade the pot. Only clay can. Does Yoga describe Ishwara only as the efficient cause or also as the material cause? Yogi says that Ishwara is the efficient cause only. He cannot say that he is also the material cause. In such a case, Ishwara cannot be all-pervading. So he cannot pervade the individual. What sort of Ishwara is he who gets confined to his own little corner, unable to pervade the individual or the world? He would not have any independence. He can neither pervade all, nor can be immanent in all. Such a limited entity cannot have any powers on the others. Obviously then, he loses his Lordship over them.

The theory of the yogis is thus full of contradictions.

Ishwara stays in his corner, prakriti rules the roost as she pleases, and the individual goes through all the problems created by prakriti without relief – is this the scenario envisaged by Yoga? Yoga says that the individual can escape from the clutches of prakriti. But who can help him do that? Yoga also says that the individual can’t do anything for his freedom and only prakriti at its discretion can set him free. If that is true, for whom are the sAdhana and aShTAnga yoga prescribed?

यम नियमासन प्राणायाम प्रत्याहार धारणा ध्यान समाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि -- 2.29, Patanjali Yoga sUtra-s

[yama, niyama, Asana, prANAyAma, pratyAhAra, dhAraNA, dhyAna, samAdhi, (Restraints or Moral vows, Duties, Body posture, Breathing technique, Sense withdrawal, Single mindedness, Meditation, Absorptive contemplation respectively) are the eight limbs of Yoga.]

Who has to follow the sAdhana spelt out in the above sUtra? Is it the individual or prakriti?

Since Prakriti is the doer, she has to do it. The individual is not the doer. He is only an experiencer or enjoyer. He does not have to practice anything. If he has to observe practices, he must have doership. But doership is not attributed to the individual. This is a huge problem.

Ishwara is not safe because he is not all-pervading. He does not control prakriti nor the individual.

prakriti is also not safe – she is insentient. Nevertheless, doership is ascribed to her. She is said to have the wisdom (prajna) to be able to bind and release the individual, although as an insentient entity, she cannot do so. Therefore, prakriti also has become defects.

jIva, the individual is also in trouble because he is said to be unattached, attributeless. The mind has been heaped on him by prakriti, and therefore, he faces all sorts of problems. But the jIva is dependent on the prakriti for his freedom. His qualities of being unattached and not having any attributes have been unable to help him.

Thus all the three have become good for nothing underlings. But then Yoga says there is an opportunity for liberation even when all the three exist as they are. How can there be liberation when the triad continues as they are with all their defects and inadequacies? How could he become an Ishwara without conquering the three demons? He had to destroy them to be the Lord.

In summary, there is no proper solution in the doctrine of yoga. Regardless of the number of days spent in the study of yoga, there is no true liberation in spite of its promise. It can give only pseudo-liberation.

So we have to yet to find out how to get truly liberated.

Well, the answer lies in the Doctrine of Self-Knowledge. Shankara comes into the picture. He asks us not to be misled by Yoga, instead, to listen to him. In masterful manner, he addresses the question about the means to attaining liberation.

Shankara declares that the three – jIva, jagat, and Ishwara – do not exist at all! And this is the solution to the problem.

Thus, by stating so, he wiped out the problem itself.

YogiThus, by stating so, he wiped out the problem itself.

Yogis have been trying to solve the problem of the triad while continuing to hold on to them. The Advaitin says that the triad must really exist in order for the Yogis to be able to solve the problem. The Advaitins hold, without any equivocation, that none of the triad actually exist.

So the question is, if so-bidi-font-style: normal'>, jagat, and Ishwara do not exist, what does exist?

The Advaitin replies that there is only One thing that exists, and that is “I.” Pay careful attention to the words. Self alone exists. Not-Self is non-existent. This is the solution that Advaita gives.

Patanjali talks only about the not-Self. He does not touch on the Self. Out of the hundreds of his sUtra-s, AtmA (Self) is mentioned at a couple of places at the most; but even there, it does not stand for what Advaita refers to as AtmA (Self). It is like a blind eye. If it can’t see, what good is it?

What is the AtmA that the Advaitin speaks about? It’s the spark, the throb that shines as ‘me.’ It includes ‘mine’ too. If you just refer to ‘me’ without including ‘mine’, then that ‘me’ stays confined just to the body. It is the delimited AtmA or jIva Atma (the individual). It is not the ParamAtmA (Supreme Self). This point of difference should be noted.

Though Atma is present in both, the one in the individual is stained. It is mixed up with the limitations of the individual. The Supreme Self is Pure, unadulterated.

Yoga makes two grave blunders. It grasps the not-Self, and mistakes it for the Self. Secondly, the Atma it grasps is stained, impure.

Why do the Advaitins hold that the three, jIva, jagat and Ishwara, are untrue?

Consider, for example, this very moment. You are just sitting there. There is no ‘thought’ in the mind. What is it that exists when there is no thought? The feeling of “I” alone is there. That is Atma. It is self-illuminating. It is Its own means to know (pramANa). No external validation / certification / proof is required. I am aware of my own beingness. I do not depend on others to know that. It is self-evident.

Self-illumination refers to that “spark” in me that says “I Am.” That is the Truth. That is the Reality. Do you agree?

Now, let’s explore what these three mean per Advaita: jIva, jagat and Ishwara

The moment the mind moves, that is, when a thought arises, it thinks: “I am confined within the body.” This is the rising of the jIvAtma – the contracted Self (Atma).

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT point to be noted.

Next, comes the thought –“There is something ghost-like world surrounding me.”

A new thought strikes the mind: “This is not created by me; some great entity must have created it.” With that thought the nebulous form of Ishwara is generated.

All these three are the projections of one’s own mind. They are just the thought forms in one’s mind. Better not to refer to them as “mind.” Refer to them instead as your thoughts.

What is the mind and where is it?

Does the mind arise with the thought or does a thought arise in the mind?

When you “think”, that thought is the mind. If there is no thought, there is no mind.

But then who is it that thinks? It is your Knowledge (jnAna).

What was there prior to the thought? It is your Knowledge (jnAna).

When did the thought arise? It arose with the movement of the Knowledge.

If the ocean moves, a wave arises. If the ocean doesn’t move, it remains as the ocean. Just water.

One wave that has moved is the individual (jIva); another wave is the world (jagat); yet another wave is Ishwara. All these are thought-waves. Mere vibrations.

When there is no vibration, there is no action. That is inactivity. It is abstinence from action. (नैष्कर्म्यसिद्धि).

Suppose I am alone, all by myself, can there be an Ishwara, a world, or an individual? Does the question arise at all?

Therefore, what is the final Truth? You yourself are the Truth. That is Atma. It is not the contracted jIva Atma. It is not the Atma inside the individual (pratyagAtma). It is the Supreme Self (paramAtman). It pervades all. That is because there are no restraining guNa-s (qualities). Nor is there a contact (attachment) with any other thing. A ‘contact’ with an “other” happens only when there is a thought.

This is a very profound observation.

But then, thoughts keep crowding in on me. I get the impression that the three - jIva, jagat and Ishwara - exist.

That is called AbhAsa (a fallacious appearance) by Advaita.

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrNKbXRiS8s&t=9s

If you have a stream of thoughts, even two or three different thoughts, what-is is not-Self (anAtman). If there are no thoughts and what-is is ‘you’ alone, that is Atman (Self).

Self is prior to not-Self. The not-Self arises with the thoughts. Once thoughts subside, only the Self remains.

Self is present before the thought and remains after the thought. Thus, what is present at the beginning and at the end is the Self. The not-Self appears in between. Shankara declares that the triad that Patanjali speaks about – the individual, the world, and Ishwara – is not-Self. How can something that appears in-between be the Truth, the Self?

The Yogis response is that at least for the period of time that it appears it exists. Advaita does not accept such an argument. They cite the example of a rope that appears as a snake. In the beginning, there is the rope. In the middle, it appeared like a snake. In the light of a lamp, it once again is a rope.

Gaudapada, Shankara’s guru’s guru, says:

आदावन्ते यन्नास्ति वर्तमानेऽपि तत्तथा
वितथैः सदृशाः सन्तोऽवितथा इव लक्षिताः -- 6, Ch 2, Gaudapada kArikA.

“That which is non-existent at the beginning and in the end is necessarily so (non-existent) in the middle. The objects are like the illusions we see, still they are regarded as if real (by the ignorant).”

Remember that you are there in the beginning. It will be only you that remains at the end too.

तदेकोऽवशिष्टः शिवः केवलोऽहम् -- the refrain of the dasha shloki nirvANa dashakam by Shankara

“That One, the Residue, the Auspicious, the Alone, am I.”

Problems arise only in the middle. The first problem that arises is you, the individual. The second is the world. And the third is the huge concept of Ishwara.

Yoga declares: “I am without any attributes; I am untouched by anything; but I am inside the body. A mind encroached on me; this mind is a creation of nature (prakriti). Nature exists. There is Ishwara beyond prakriti. But there is no relationship between prakriti and Ishwara.”

One is not related to the other, yet all three entities are said to stay together at one place! This is not logical. You alone were there in the beginning and you alone are there at the end. Isn’t it foolish that you think of the three entities that arise in the middle as real? This is nescience (avidyA). But this nescience of Adviata is not the same as the avidyA that Patanjali speaks about.

The nescience (avidyA) of Advaita is the inability to consider all three as “myself.” It is Knowledge (vidyA) to be able to see the three as oneself.

What is the nature of the three entities? While Patanjali treats these as real, Advaita considers them to be illusory appearances – AbhAsa.

What is the difference between reality and AbhAsa?

Reality in Advaita is that which exists by Itself, without depending on any other substance for its existence.

A false appearance (AbhAsa) is that which is dependent on some “thing” else for its appearance.

In other words, “What-IS” is Real; what appears is unreal - AbhAsa.

What-IS is water; what appears is the wave - AbhAsa.

What-IS is gold; what appears is the ornament - AbhAsa.

What-IS is the space; what appears is darkness- AbhAsa.

What-IS is the sunlight; what appears is the water (in a mirage) – AbhAsa.

What-IS is:

प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म -- III-i-3, aitareya upaniShad.

Pure, Perfect Consciousness, the Supreme Power.

ब्रह्म नित्यशुद्धबुद्धमुक्तस्वभावं सर्वज्ञं सर्वशक्तिसमन्वितम्-- Shankara in his Commentary on I-i-1, brahma sUtra-s.

That’s what IS. That is the substance based on which the individual, the world, and Ishwara appear. Because they are mere appearances, they are AbhAsa.

Would you consider this a lecture on the theory (siddhAnta) of Advaita, the process (sAdhana) of realizing the truth, or the experience (anubhava) of truth itself?

This is both the theory and the process, as well as the Immediated Direct Experience of the Pure, Perfect Consciousness (aparokShAnubhUti).

Shankara is about to give us such an intuitive experience through this short treatise, aparokShAnubhUti.

How can it be experience? Isn’t it Knowledge?

Advaita asserts that Knowledge and Experience are one and the same. They are non-different. For example, place a crystal of sugar candy on your tongue. For as long as you keep it on your tongue, it will remain a crystal only. You would not know if it is sweet or bland. Only when you suck on it and experience its sweetness will you really know that it is sugar candy.

Would you call this knowledge or experience? It is a difficult question to answer.

What does it feel like? Is it an experience of sweetness or is it the knowledge of sweetness? Do you know it as something sweet or do you experience it as something sweet? These are tricky questions.

Advaita says that it is both knowledge and experience. There is no difference between Knowledge and Experience, they are one and the same. That’s because you cannot remove the experience from the knowledge, or have the knowledge without the experience. So, you cannot separate them. Knowledge is experience. jnAnam is anubhava.

Shankara uses anubhUti in the title of the monograph. anubhUti is the same as anubhava (experience). An experience is always direct. It cannot be indirect. Why then did Shankara specifically call it aparokSha, direct, in the title of this text?

parokSha” is that which is at a distance from you. “aparokSha” is that which is near to you. If the sugar candy is at some distance (parokSha) from you, you would not be able to experience it. It becomes your direct experience (aparokSha) only when it comes close to you. In other words, if a thing is direct, aparokSha (pratyaksha), it becomes experience. Can the two, aparokSha and anubhava, be the same?

Why should Shankara call the text aparokShAnubhUti? Isn’t it redundant to say both direct and experience? It is like saying “free gift” or “chai tea”. Should he have called it aparokSha jnAna, direct knowledge, instead?

Shankara has a reason to use both words together. Although knowledge and experience are the same, Knowledge can sometimes be deceitful, inaccurate. There is no scope for deceit or inaccuracy in direct experience, whether good or bad.

Every knowledge may not be an experience. But every experience is knowledge. For example, every noble person is not necessarily a jnAni (Knower of Truth); but every Knower of Truth is a noble man. A Knower of Truth is naturally kind and compassionate. But every kind and companionate person is not necessarily a Knower of Truth (Self-Knowledge).

There are innumerable noble and kind-hearted people in the world. They are not so rare. But they may not all have the ultimate Knowledge, jnAna. They may be experts in particular subjects, but they may not possess sterling characters. But a brahmajnAni (Knower of the Self) would never be ignoble.

Similarly, all knowledge is not experience, but experience is always knowledge.

Let me illustrate with an example. Say there is a specialist in a particular field of medicine. He has completed his education, passed all his examinations, fulfilled all the required formalities, and is now practicing his profession. When a patient with a severe illness comes to him, the doctor examines him thoroughly, conducts all the necessary tests, and finally diagnoses him with the disease typhoid. The doctor certainly has complete knowledge of the disease. But since the doctor himself does not have the disease, he does not have the experience of that disease. He knows all about it, he can prescribe the necessary drugs, and so on. But he does not have to take the medicine himself. In short, he has the knowledge, but not the experience. If he had the experience as well, the knowledge would become his own experience. He would be both the doctor and the patient!

Shankara, keeping in mind such issues, called the text “aparokSha anubhUti.” He wants to convey to us that if an experience is indirect, it is merely knowledge. If it is direct (aparokSha), then it is experience (anubhUti). Therefore, one should first decide whether the experience is parokSham or aparokSham, indirect, or direct and immediated (without a medium). If you describe the experience of others, since it is not your direct experience, it is not aparokSha anubhUti. It is just parokSha. You cannot even call it an experience (anubhUti). You have to call it just parokSha jnAna (indirect knowledge).

If you can experience the Knowledge of the Self by yourself and experientially feel “I am Brahman” (ahaM brahma asmi), it is both aparokSha and anubhUti. Until then, it is only indirect knowledge.

The teacher instructs the student:

आत्मा तत्त्वमसि| -- VI-viii-7, chAndogya.

tat tvam asi - You are That.

This is knowledge, but indirect. Once the student is able to apply the instruction on himself and experientially feel the truth, then the next statement becomes valid:

अहं ब्रह्मास्मीति -- I-iv-10, brihadAraNyaka

ahaM brahma asmi I am brahman.

Only such an experience is qualified to be called aparokSha anubhUti.

The 16-day study of Yoga that we had just completed is one thing, and this 8-day study of Knowledge that we are now embarking on is of a different order.

The path of Yoga seems to solve the problem, but the solution it offers is not complete or perfect. It takes the not-Self as real and looks for ways to escape from it. Consequently, Yogis talk of “becoming” something that you are not already. They describe a path to achieve it, and instruct on aShTAnga yoga (the Eight-fold yoga). Right now, you have no solution, so you have to do sAdhana (follow some practices) to attain it sometime in the future.

Advaita (non-duality) does not speak in such terms. It unambiguously declares that there is nothing that you do not already have that you have to newly acquire. All you need to do is to recognize that the visible world is illusory and not real. This recognition in itself is Self-knowledge.

While Yoga attempts to find the ways and means to escape from the worldly ordeal taking it to be Reality, the Knowledge path of Advaita teaches that Reality is only “I”, and the rest is just an illusion. Whatever I perceive is my imagination, so all I need to do is to simply know my true, intrinsic nature. With the recognition of what I am, the apparent world will dissolve.

The Yoga system prescribes action. Something has to be “done.” In Advaita, there is no action. It is only “remembrance”, recollection of our true nature (which we seem to have overlooked).

In Yoga, you have to follow yama, niyama (restraints, observances, etc.), and cultivate dhArana, dhyAna, samAdhi (single mindedness, meditation, deep absorption) etc. You will not achieve kaivalya (Aloneness, freedom from all bondage) until then. Even so, it is not a happy position. The three entities, jIva-jagat-Ishwara, will continue as they are said to be real in Yoga. If they are real, these entities will not allow a way out (of bondage) for you.

An apparitional entity (AbhAsa), on the other hand, will allow you to pass through. If a real snake is lying on a rope, it might bite if you interact with it. But if the rope itself is mistaken to be a snake, there is no reason to be scared of it. Just look at it in the light, and the snake disappears!

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMdVjJWWumA

In the same way, in the illumination of Knowledge (jnAna dIpam), Ishwara fades away. prakriti too disappears and only the sense of “I Am” remains. The Advaitin makes the individual-world-Ishwara triad dissolve, while the Yogi holds on to them and tries to find ways to escape from them.

This shows the tremendous difference between the two systems!

If prakriti were to be true, you can never escape from her. She will continue to chase you. If she is the reason for your bondage, how and why would she set you free later? Even if she does free you, what is the guarantee that she will not bind you again? If it is in her nature to not bind you, why then did she bind you in the first instance?

Further, why doesn’t Ishwara show his compassion on you and draw you towards him? According to yoga, Ishwara is only the efficient cause and not the material cause. He is like the potter who made the pot, and not the clay, the substance of the pot. He exists at a distance from us, so remains inaccessible. He lacks mobility and hence he cannot come to our rescue. He would have been able to come to our rescue if he were to be the material cause. As the material cause, he would be all-pervading, permeating everything, our body, mind, and our entire being. One could then have taken refuge in him the moment he offered a helping hand.

prakriti will leave whenever we want her to leave because she is like the illusory snake on the rope (not real). It can be done only through Knowledge, not Yoga. Yoga cannot give such Knowledge because it considers prakriti to be real. There is scope for obtaining such a Knowledge (Truth) only if her appearance were to be false. What one should get hold of is not any knowledge about prakriti, but the Knowledge about one’s own true nature. Once one knows the Truth about oneself, all else will become an illusion.

Gaining any amount of knowledge about a false appearance is of no consequence. False appearances will continue to manifest, while the Reality behind them is forever overlooked. This is like in a dream. You may have acquired everything you need in a dream. But every one of those things will disappear the moment you wake up. Because you have forgotten your true Self, you never find yourself in the world.

This wakeful state you are now in is also like a prolonged dream. You may acquire many things in the world, but they would similarly be of no use. And on the top of it, you do not even remember in the wakeful world what you actually are. All that you need to do now is to wake up from this dream, this world.

How can that happen? It cannot come about by simply thinking about what you do not have; it can happen only through a recollection who you are in reality. No sooner do you get up from your sleep, all that dream world you had been witnessing thus far disappears. The dream disappears when you remember who you are.

In the same way, the three dreams - individual, world, and Ishwara - will disappear once you recognize your true nature as the Self. It will then become clear to you that the world is a mere illusory appearance.

Shankara suggests an aShTAnga Yoga (Eightfold path) towards achieving that. This Advaitic aShTAnga Yoga (Eightfold path) is not the same as that of Patanjali. The eight-fold path provided by Patanjali is aimed at disciplining you. It does not have the capacity to protect you.

Advaita suggests you complete Patanjali’s training before you take up non-duality. It is, however, important to recognize that the Patanjali’s eight elements are not an end in themselves. They are like the car that takes you to the airport. Once you reach the airport and board the plane, you don’t need the car any more. The eightfold path of Yoga talks of giving you freedom while retaining the triad (individual, world, and Ishwara). Advaita questions that concept. After all, the individual, world and Ishwara are supposed to be real in Yoga. That means they will never go away and hence you are stuck with them. How can there be freedom if the triad continues?

One can get freedom only if the triad were to be unreal. Their unreality will become evident only when you know what the Reality is. And what is it that is Real? Your own intrinsic nature.

What Advaita teaches is the Knowledge of the Reality. It is not like a knowledge that is known indirectly as a hearsay. It is the Knowledge that one realizes by oneself experientially. It is direct.

What is being discussed here is the direct experiential understanding (aparokSha anubhUti) based on Shankara’s short treatise “aparokSha anubhUti,” the pure science of Advaita Vedanta.

The aShTAnga yoga of Advaita comprises the following eight instructions:

i) Detachment

ii) Discrimination

iii) Superimposition

iv) Sublation

v) False Appearance

vi) Melting (Dissolution)

vii) Knowledge about the nature of the Self

viii) Oneness of All that IS.

It is quite charming the way Shankara defines the various terms of the aShTAnga yoga from an Advaita perspective in this text. They are first defined and later elaborated upon in detail by Shankara. We shall begin with the first instruction.


Atmano vyatirekeNa sarvamidamastIti tatra bhrAnti nivAranAya Adau vairAgya varNaNam

[First is a description of ‘Detachment’ in order to eliminate the illusion that there is something that is not-Self.]

Detachment does not mean taking up monkhood nor is it about wearing ochre robes. Banish all such thoughts.

Detachment means vi-rAga – not paying any attention towards an object. It does not mean that we ignore an object though it exists.

vairAgya” or detachment is the refutation of the false notion that there is something other than “I Atmano vyatirekeNa sarvamidamastIti tatra bhrAnti”

The refutation is not only about things that exist out there, but also about things that we imagine to exist, whether really existing or not.

Here’s an example. Suppose I say, “I don’t need this mike. You can take it away.” This would not qualify to be called detachment.

If I say I do not need my wealth and I will give it away and go to the Himalayas, many would consider this to be detachment. However, such actions are also not detachment. Even if you go to the Himalayas, you will be sitting in some cave or Ashram. You may not have sumptuous home cooked food, but you will beg or do something to get food. You are still attached to the body. This is attachment, not detachment!

What then is detachment really (as per Advaita)?

Detachment is ‘dropping’ the notion that a thing that appears to be is really existent (separate from me). Detachment is the conviction that all that exists is only “Me”. There is nothing that exists which is “not-Me.” If I imagine something other than ‘Me,’ it’s a mistake. Such imaginations should be given up.

It is not about leaving or giving away ‘something or the other.’’ It is not detachment if one says that there is no world. Nor is it about leaving the world. The world is the ‘form’ of the Self. How could anyone leave It? If All that IS is the Self, where is the scope to leave or get rid of anything? The false notion that there is a world separate from you has to be abandoned.

The illusion that “my Self is limited, I extend so far and no further, it’s not-Me beyond some point” has to be abjured.

The renunciation that other systems (Yoga) talk about is like killing a real snake. The renunciation that the Advaitins talk about is to deny the very existence of the snake. So there is no need to try to get rid of the snake. In fact, you cannot get rid of it since it is only an illusory appearance. All you need to do is realize that the snake is truly not there.

Wearing ochre robes might be a symbol for renunciation in other systems. But in Advaita, the robes, wearing of the robes, the body, the world are all brahman (Self). So true sannyAsa (renunciation) is to consider that brahman alone IS, and that there is nothing other than brahman. That is the real definition of detachment.


anAtmabhAva sammishritaH atmAna samyak samvedyate iti tat samvedanAya anAtmanaH prithak krityA, atmanA varNaNam.

[Description of Self after separating It from the intermixed Self and not-Self, in order to know the Self.]

In spite of all the emphasis on getting rid of the notion that something other than the Self exists, forms continue to appear and we continue to feel that they really exist. Although it is only the Self that appears in all these forms, we have not yet internalized this fact. Therefore, we need to first separate the Self from the forms that appear in front of us.

For example, what appears as the necklace is actually only gold. But the shape of the necklace keeps coming in the way of the thought that what appears is gold and nothing but gold. So as a first step, we need to differentiate “gold” from its “form” (necklace).

This is called ‘Discrimination’ (viveka). Unless you separate the gold, you will not get a feel for It. You will eventually get the thought that what has the appearance of a necklace is gold with its yellowish color and metallic luster. Taking your stand as gold, look then at the necklace. There will be no problem to see the gold through the form. If you, however, look at the necklace without anchoring yourself in the thought “this is gold,’ the thought that it is gold will never strike you. Only the necklace continues to appear. But note that the form of necklace is temporary. It can be changed, broken, altered, or melted.

Thus any form (or thing that is not-Self) disappears at one time or the other. Because you have not been able to recognize gold (comparable to the Self), the real substance that is present in all forms, it has been missed by you. Consequently, you are a loser on two counts: the not-Self the only thing which is seen by you eventually disappears and the real substance, Self (‘gold’), remains unknown to you.

Thus you lose both the Self and the not-Self.

Summing up, it is the Self Itself that manifests as not-Self. In order to realize this, you need to separate the Self from the not-Self through “discrimination.”


prihak bhAve punaH AtmA anAtmeti dvaitaprasaktiH tadvAraNAya dvayorAtmAnanAtmanosambandha kalpanaM kArya kAraNa rUpeNa adhyAropaH |

[Because of the mention of both the Self and not-Self, superimposition is a cause-effect relationship imagined to remove the notion of their distinction.]

Since two entities, the Self and the not-Self, are mentioned, one may ask, if they are two separate things.

The Vedantin assures that they are one and the same, i.e., the substance ‘gold’ is not different from the necklace.

He does not expect you to keep the distinction between the gold and the form of the necklace and view them as separate entities forever. Initially, because you were unable to see the “substance” and were aware only of the form, he suggested the notional ‘splitting’ of the two as a temporary device.

The substance and the form are related. What is the nature of their relationship?

They have a cause-effect relationship. Gold is the cause, and the necklace is the effect. They are tied together with a causal relationship. That is to say that the form has come out of the cause – the substance. The technical name for this notional process is “Superimposition.”

Thus the teaching is bringing together the ‘jIva- jagat-Ishwara trio’ on one hand and ‘the Supreme Self’ on the other.

Initially, we separated the two for ease of understanding. They are brought back again together as one entity. The technique is called:

adhyAropaH iti.

[That is the superimposition.]

4.Sublation (of) and 5. False Appearance

tathA kalpa itvA, kAraNa vyatirekeNa kAryaM na sidhyatIti nyAyena kArya prapancasya pratyAkhyAnamayameva apavAdaH |

[Having imagined thus, sublate (the appearance of) the world through logic that the effect cannot take place without the cause.]

Let us say that we recognized that the necklace came from the gold. It means that we understood that the gold is the cause and the necklace is the effect. Even so, what is the necklace when it is being seen?

Gold pervades the entire necklace. There is nothing else there other than gold. The shape is not that of the necklace. Necklace is a form that gold assumes.

The substance is gold. The ornament is illusory. If you learn to see only the gold and not the form it takes, then the necklace gets sublated or the form dissolves into the substance.

But how can one negate the form? Will form go away by negation? After all, we can still see the necklace and wear it around our neck. What are we wearing round the neck - is it gold or necklace?

The next step will provide an answer to this question.

6.Melting (Dissolution)

apravilApite anAtmane atmA anyatva bhrAntir nasarvAtmanA nashyatIti kritvA anAtma pravilApanAya punarupAya varNanam |

[Melting (Dissolution) is the device to completely dissolve the illusion that the Self is different from the not-Self.]

The problem we have now is that the shape (form) has not been totally dissolved.

So we have to destroy the shape totally.

The shape is nothing but name and form.

Whose name and form are they? They belong to the gold. They describe gold. The ‘gold- thought’ instead of being as itself, is arising as ‘necklace-thought.’ In other words, the ‘form of gold’ has the appearance of the ‘form of necklace.’ How do we remedy that?

We need to dissolve the forms. This is called pravilApana.

It is easy to melt the necklace and dissolve its form. But how do we dissolve the world?

aparokShAnubhuti: Video 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K3Ah3ysnbk

6. Melting Down:

The melting-down process (pravilApana) is the ability to know experientially that “Nothing is different from ‘me.’” It is a process of constantly repeating to oneself that no “thing” exists separate from the background in which it appears.

It means that there are no individual or particular objects that are distinct from the background in which they appear. In other words, they are all the same. To be able to conceive the world as one common “Universality” is the melting-down process.

In the physical world, we use fire to melt different types of gold ornaments into gold, which is the common substance that they are made up of. In the same manner, we can use the fire of Knowledge to melt away ‘names and forms,’ the factors that differentiate them from one another.

The root word “tap” in Sanskrit means ‘to heat.’ From “tap”, comes ‘tapas’, which means askesis or observation of certain austerities and meditation. Askesis is the way to melt all the ‘particulars’ into one common substance, the Universal Oneness. Thus, as one practices this process of melting things (tapas), “names and forms” of all objects will slowly start dissolving into the Universal Oneness. Particulars fade away into the generality. Thus you should melt away the entire world of names and forms right at the very time of perception.

For example, consider the dream objects. Where are all those solid looking objects that you experienced last night in your dream? They melted away in the fire of your wakeful perception. So also, if you awaken from this ‘wakeful’ state, all the things you see in the world now will dissolve.

प्रबोधसमये स्वात्मानमेवाद्वयं -- verse 1, dakShinAmUrti stotram by Shankara

What you see as multiplicity in the wakeful world melts away upon “awakening.”

The melting away of the wakeful world is “pravilApana.”

pravilApana” is an important and crucial tool in Advaita. It is quite powerful.

It might appear to be a dangerous tool for the person who does not know how to use it. But for the one who knows how to use it, it is the most effective tool. It is usually the ignorant ones who are scared. But not the ones who know how to use the tool.

Consider driving a car. One who does not know driving will be very scared of the traffic, the oncoming vehicles, side-view mirrors, rearview mirror, gears, break, clutch, steering … argh! … so many things to take care of. He will be afraid that he may lose control and hit someone or something. But it’s not so for the expert driver. The car moves on even if his hands are off the steering wheel. That comes with gaining knowledge (about driving a car).

Thus, the melting the particulars into the Universal is dissolution (pravilApana), the sixth device in the toolbox of Advaita.

7. Knowledge about the Nature of the Self

sa ca upAyaH AtmAkAra vRittireva nAnyA |

[There is no other means than thought modification in the form of Self.]

The seventh is the thought modification in the form of AtmA. It is also known as the vRitti jnAna.

For example, consider the mike in front of me. How did I know it? Knowledge tells me that it is a mike. When I perceive the object, knowledge takes the form of the mike. An image of the mike falls on my mind. When the image forms, it is “experienced.” Even in the case of things like happiness and unhappiness which have no form, an image of them falls on the mind. Had there been no image of them falling on the screen of my mind, I would not have known what they are.

If you are experiencing something, you ought to have its knowledge too. Without the knowledge, there cannot be an experience. If the “known” does not or cannot make an impression on the screen of knowledge, there will be no experience or knowledge.

The dissolution or melting we spoke about earlier amounts to the preventing the formation of the image of the object on the screen of knowledge. Only two people are capable of doing such a thing. One is the ignoramus and the other is the Knower of Truth (jnAni). Even a mad cap or an infant will experience some amount of happiness and sorrow. Unlike them, the ignorant person, who is not sensitive to anything, will neither experience happiness nor sorrow.

One should be able to melt the image completely. Only a jnAni (Knower) will be able to do it and none else. It is a thought modification. The modification takes the form of the AtmA. Just as a thought modification in the form of the mike shows the image of the mike, the modification in the nature of AtmA will show all as AtmA.

In the case of almost all of us, a chair might come into our view when we are seeing the mike. When we are seeing the chair, a man might also come into our view. That is because, in the world of multiplicity, the modification of the thought (vRitti) keeps shifting from object to object. The modification of the thought (vRitti) implicitly involves movement.

Such shfting is possible only when there are many particulars (separate objects). It is not possible, if there is only one common, universal thing (Self) perceived everywhere. The thought modification would then be in the nature of the Universal. The Universal permeates all. Only the Universal is seen everywhere and in all things. Instead of the particulars, only the commonality is seen.

सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मनि
ईक्षते योगयुक्तात्मा सर्वत्र समदर्शनः -- Ch VI, verse 29, Bhagavad-Gita

[The Self abiding in all beings, and all beings (abiding) in the Self, sees he whose self has been made steadfast, who everywhere sees the same.]

Seeing the One Universal Self is the “Look” (ईक्षते) of the Knower (jnAni). That is called samAdhi in Advaita. It is the nirvikalpa samAdhi.

The other names for such thought modification in the nature of AtmA are brahmAkAra vRitti, and akhaNDAkAra vRitti.

brahmAkAra vRitti” (thought modification in the form of brahman), as already mentioned, is a valuable tool in Advaita. It is not like the aShTAnga yoga in the Patanjali system, where the triad of the individual-world-Ishwara continues. Advaitins understand the triad to be an illusion. It gets dissolved through pravilApana.

The moment we see the world as permeated by the Universal Oneness (brahman), the not-Self is seen to be illusory. Then the Self stands out prominently in the foreground as the Reality.

Now, the final question that pops up is:

kathaM sa vRitti ssampAdaneya?

[How does one get hold of that sort of thought-modification (vRitti)? ]

What is the procedure (prakriyA) for the implementation of the tool, brahmAkAra vRitti ?

Shankara proposes, as an answer, a fifteen-step process. It comprises the eight elements of aShTAnga yoga prescribed by Patanjali, and an additional seven, thus making a total of fifteen. The eight elements of Patanjali’s aShtAnga yoga are absorbed into this prakriyA with a reinterpretation by Shankara from the perspective of Knowledge. All of the popular worships, ritualistic routines, and pious activities practiced by seekers are subsumed in this procedure, but they are interpreted in terms of Knowledge. This fifteen-step process of Shankara takes the seeker to:

brahmAtma anubhava siddhiH |

[The experiential realization of brahman.]

It is also called “sarvAtmabhAva.” It is what is indicated in the 10th verse of dakShiNAmUrti stotra.

सर्वात्मत्वमिति स्फुटीकृतमिदं यस्मादमुष्मिन् स्तवे

तेनास्य श्रवणात्तदर्थमननाद्ध्यानाच्च सङ्कीर्तनात्

सर्वात्मत्वमहाविभूतिसहितं स्यादीश्वरत्वं स्वतः ( var ततः )

सिद्ध्येत्तत्पुनरष्टधा परिणतं चैश्वर्यमव्याहतम् verse 10, dakShiNAmUrti stotra by Shankara.


The eight elements of Ptanajali system are referred to as aShTAnga yoga.

The eight elements of Shankara’s process may be called as aShTAnga jnAna.

We may christen it as the aShTAnga jnAna yoga.

(It may be recalled that the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-Gita is called titled “jnAna yoga – the path of Knowledge”).

With this intro, we shall now take up a study of the marvelous text, “aparokShAnubhUti,” which promises to bring us immediated direct experience of brahman, as its very title suggests.

The First verse:

श्रीहरिं परमानन्दमुपदेष्टारमीश्वरम्

व्यापकं सर्वलोकानां कारणं तं नमाम्यहम् || -- 1, aparokShAnubhUti.

It begins with a salutation. It says, ‘I bow down to you …..’

Right here, a question arises. If it is a Non-dualistic teaching, how can there be such a salutation? The Non-dual Guru, Gaudapada Acharya, himself had declared:

निःस्तुतिर्निर्नमस्कारो निःस्वधाकार एव
चलाचलनिकेतश्च यतिर्यादृच्छिको भवेत् -- Ch 2, verse 37, Gaudapada kArikA

[The man of Self-restraint should be above all praise, salutations, and all rites prescribed by the scriptures ….]

That being the case, how could it start with a bow?

Well, Gaudapada too paid his respects in the 4th chapter of his kArikA-s.

ज्ञानेनाकाशकल्पेन धर्मान्यो गगनोपमान्
ज्ञेयाभिन्नेन सम्बुद्धस्तं वन्दे द्विपदां वरम् -- Ch 4, verse 1, Gaudapada kArikA

[I bow to that best among men who by means of knowledge, which is space-like and non-different from the object of Knowledge, ….]

Does it mean that Gaudapada was wrong?

After all, when one bows down, evidently there is someone bowing, there is another who receives the bow, and the bowing itself as an action. It’s a clear situation of multiplicity – not a-dvaita anymore!

Another objection could be that it is said that the text would speak about direct Non-dual experience of Oneness, but it expresses obeisance!

Shankara says that only the Non-dualists can talk in such apparently contradictory terms because they enjoy a unique facility (advantage).

Duality comprises multiple distinct immiscible constituents. It clearly differentiates between right and wrong, and firmly approves or disapproves things. But in Non-duality, right and wrong together describe the intrinsic nature of brahman. We have, for example, from Bhagavad Gita:

अनादिमत्परं ब्रह्म सत्तन्नासदुच्यते -- Ch XIII, verse 12, Bhagavad-Gita

[Beginningless is the Supreme Self. It is not said to be either Is (sat) or Not-Is (asat).]

Krishna also said:

अमृतं चैव मृत्युश्च सदसच्चाहमर्जुन -- Ch IX, verse 19, Bhagavad-Gita.

[I am the immortality as well as death, existence, and non-existence, Arjuna.]

In the 10th Chapter, we get:

द्यूतं छलयतामस्मि तेजस्तेजस्विनामहम् -- Ch X, verse 36, Bhagavad-Gita.

[I am the gambling of the fraudulent, I am the splendor of the splendid…]

We see these contradictory characteristics being claimed as “Me” by Krishna. Both the good and the bad, the sentient and the insentient, the highest Mountain range like the Himalayas as well as the the deep Pacific ocean are all claimed to be Himself.

The point being made is that, in Advaita, all the polar pairs of opposites dissolve into Oneness.

Advaita is that where both the Self and the not-Self merge together as Knowledge. That is why the Goddess of Shakti is described as of the form of both Knowledge and Ignorance. it does not mean that the Goddess is ignorant. But it means that Ignorance is Goddess.

All gold is not a necklace. But all of the necklace, in its entirety, is gold. There is no other substance in it. That is the way to understand it.

To say that the gold is a necklace, would be a serious error. It would mean that gold is being subjected to the limits of the necklace. If necklace is called gold, the limited thing becomes the Infinite, Perfect.

If you say gold is necklace, the Infinite becomes finite.

Melting all the finite things into Infinity or Perfection is Advaita.

From the perspective of Advaita, all the particulars must be seen as the Universal. If the Universal is seen as the finite, the particular, it will be a mistake. That is what is happening in our normal vision – we see the particulars, the world and the cycle of births and deaths. And that is the problem.

Hence, only an Advaitin, because of his Non-dual vision, has the prerogative to sail in opposites.

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