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Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
This is a verse from Vivekacūḍāmaṇi composed by Śankara. It is said to be the last composition of Śankara. In a very short verse, he has made it very clear what is this self, how it can be accessed, when do you get a realization or direct experience of the self.
There are two words in English. It would be ‘gross’ and ‘subtle’ in English. In Sanskrit it will be ‘sthūla’ and ‘sūkṣma’. Actually, what is meant by gross or sthūla - whatever is perceived by the senses, seen by the eyes, heard by the ears, smelt by the nose, tasted by the tongue and touched by the skin. These are the five openings by which or through which we perceive and interact with the world objects. There is no other organ than these five. Now, whatever we are able to perceive through these organs, all of them fall into the category of sthūla or gross. Now is there anything non-gross, not sthūla? Yes. Whatever is within our body. For example, even to open the eye lids and see, we must have a mind that is sensitive and cognitive. We know that we have a mind. Mind produces thoughts, feelings, emotions, memory. The intelligence does enquiry, introspection and also arrives at matters in the way of assessment, evaluation and finding.
So we have two distinct functions, functional units so to say, within our body. One is the mind because it does mentation, another is the intelligence because it does intellection. But the actual medium or substance which does both the functions is the same consciousness. That consciousness is atīva sūkṣmam; it is extremely subtle. Because it is inside the body which is full of panchabhūtās. The panchabhūtās themselves are solid earth, fluid water, gaseous air, energial fire and something entirely different from all the four, the ground of these namely ākāśa; the sky or space. Our body is completely full with these five substances. Now inside such a body, where even the space is there, we have something different from the six. What is that? That is what we call the mind, intelligence and ego and further, the self. Actually it is all consciousness in its purer, purer and purest form. That consciousness is the subtle thing. That is called the Ātmā or Paramātmā.
Atīva sūkṣmam paramātmatattvam. The essence of existence, the essence of presence or prevalence called Ātmā, paramātmā, parama-tattva, that is extremely subtle.
Na sthūla-dṛṣṭyā pratipattumarhati. By the normal senses which have only one power of seeing everything gross; so our senses have the gross-seeing capacity. With such senses, the inner presence can never be glimpsed, accessed or felt. Then what is the way?
There is a way. Why not? Make use of your own mind and intelligence. Mind is already functioning. Now it is activating, animating the senses and perceiving the external objects. Actually, the senses are inert. The objects also are insentient. The animation is given to the senses by the sentience or consciousness within us. In our sensory actions and interactions, the basic factor is the mind inside. Now make use of that mind. Can you not think without help of the senses? Can you not remember? So the mind and the intelligence are capable of functioning independently without the help of the senses. So employ your mind, employ your intelligence. Learn to introspect, ruminate over, contemplate upon.
When you start contemplating upon the self or God, what happens?
Our mind now becomes gross because it starts thinking of gross objects. So that gross introspection is replaced by subtle introspection. Start thinking – ‘What is my mind? What is my thought process? What is the substance which does thinking? Is it a substance comparable to the gross objects of the world? How does the mind produce thoughts? Does the mind think and keep the thoughts in some place, occupying space? Millions and trillions of thoughts are produced by the mind. Obviously, they cannot be kept inside the body, there is no space. Then how is the mind producing the thoughts? Where are they kept? And how do the thoughts disappear?’ So there is a creation on the one hand, preservation on the other and dissolution on the other constantly taking place inside the body. What is that process? Who does it? What does it? Introspect over it.
Samādhina-atyanta-susūkṣma-vṛtyā. When by spiritual or philosophical introspection, your mano-vritthis, that means mental activities, mental functions, become Samādhina-atyanta-susūkṣma-vṛtyā, when the mano-vritthis become subtler, subtler, subtler and subtler, when they become feebler, feebler and feebler, lighter, lighter and lighter, slower, slower and slower, there comes a stage when, what is the maximum of slowness? It is cessation.
You try to walk slowly, still slower, still slower. Ultimately, the walking will be so slow that you will stop. Exactly similarly, what will happen? The gross introspection will change over to subtle introspection, that introspection will become lighter, feebler and slower, until at last there comes a time when the whole introspectional process will come to be still. In the same manner, as the mind is active and vibrant now, it will become non-vibrant, buoyant and still. What shall I say? It is a state of a wonderful absorption. It is coupled with exhilaration. And in its greater and greater measure, it becomes spiritual ecstasy, generated not by the body and the senses, but the power and presence that animates and activates the body.
Unfortunately, people make a magic of it. It can be very very simple. Let the gross thoughts be replaced by subtle thoughts. Let the object thoughts give place to subject thoughts, thoughts about the subject, until at last the whole process becomes finer and finer, subtler and subtler, lighter and lighter, feebler and feebler, slower and slower, gentler and gentler, until at last it spontaneously stops. This is called niśchala samādhi. That niśchala samādhi when it becomes stabilized, it becomes nirvikalpa-samādhi; samādhi in which no doubt of any kind whatsoever arises. Vikalpa means doubt.
Now this process will be possible and the realization also will be had, by whom? Āryaih, by good, noble people; people who have a good conduct who are noble, gentle, kind, considerate, sympathetic, sacrificing also for the sake of others.
Then what? Atiśuddha buddhibhiḥ. The intelligence will become pure, subtle, and its capacity to grasp will be greatly more. As our intelligence comprehends the external objects, it will start realizing and comprehending the internal one subject. Objects are many and infinite but their subject is only one. That is what you refer to as ‘I’.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.