Monday, September 25, 2006

Story 36 – Story of Prahlada – 6

Sankaracharya explains about chit and jada as drik and drishya in Brahmajnanavalimaala thus:

Drikdrishau dvau padaarthau sthah paraspara vilakshanau
Drik brahma drishyam maayethi sarva vedanta dindimaa

There are two entities alone here (on analysis) which is Drik and Drishya both of which are of diverse natures (entirely opposite). Drik or Subject is Brahman whereas drishyam or objects are maya – thus is the roaring statement of vedanta.

When we analyse the experience spectrum, we can find only these two entities of Subject and Object. Subject is Consciousness – that which is capable of experiencing its own existence – that which pulsates in a person as “I”, “I”. Objects are the various insentient entities which have no existence of their own except for the illumination provided by Consciousness. Until “I” throw light to the table in front of me, the table doesn’t exist & has no existence at all. Thus the jada vasthus (insentient entities) are dependent on Consciousness for their existence. Consciousness on the other hand is independent of the insentient entities.

Therefore we have Consciousness as the independent entity whereas the objects of the world or the world itself in general are dependent on Consciousness. It is this Consciousness, the independent entity, which is mentioned in the scriptures as Brahman and Upanishad. Aitareya Upanishad says PRAJNAANAM BRAHMA or Consciousness is Brahman. The Upanishads in many ways speaks of the ultimate reality of Lord as that which gives light to other beings & that whose light the objects follow becoming existent themselves (as a result of the light of the objects). Thus the objects are present only if the Lord (of the nature of Consciousness) is present.

On the other hand, the scriptures also speak that in the pure state of Consciousness or Lord, the Sun or the fire or any other objects don’t shine. This means that Consciousness is devoid of all objects & it exists even when the objects are not present. This is what we experience in the state of deep sleep when there are no objects but still Consciousness exists as we say after waking up that “I slept well”.

We may doubt over here that there are as many Consciousness as sentient beings – but this is not true. The scriptures again and again proclaim that the underlying essence of all beings or the ATMAN is the same – and it is the same PARAMATMAN who is residing as the essence in the heart of all beings.

Thus there are no “many” Consciousness but one alone which is called the ultimate reality of Lord or Brahman.

As we saw, Consciousness is an independent entity whereas the world of objects is dependent on Consciousness for its existence. Any dependent entity is only an illusion in the substratum of independent entity. This is like a variable and a constant – a variable is only an illusion of name in the constant. A variable is a constant at any point of time. Similarly thus the objects are only an illusion in the reality of Lord. This is the reason why it is called as Maya or illusory or unreal by Sankaracharya. Thus Consciousness or the ultimate reality of Lord who is our own very nature alone is real and other things are mere illusions in the Lord.

The above is the ultimate reality behind the world and this analysis is what Prahlaada is trying to point out through the words of Chit and Jada. If we realize the illusory nature of the objects of the world, we will develop dispassion and detachment to them. This detachment leads us to seek the eternal entity of Lord. Thus we drift from the sorrowful objects to blissful Lord. Therefore this analysis of Chit and Jada helps in developing Viveka (discrimination), Vairagya (dispassion) as well as Mumukshutva (desire to get liberated from the ocean of samsaara).

It is due to this reason that this analysis is very important for a seeker. Let us all try to contemplate on this analysis by learning them thoroughly and pondering over it whenever we have time.

Prahlaada said to his co-students:

I will explain you to the tattvam which Narada gave to my mother & I overheard it in her womb. I still remember it clearly. This truth is something which can be easily grasped by even a small child. As explained earlier, there are only two things here – Jada or insentient entities and Chit or Consciousness. Consciousness alone is real and is called Atman or Self in Vedanta. The insentient entities of the world are only an illusion in the reality of Consciousness.

This is the nature of the Atman:

Atma nityo avyayah shuddha ekah kshetrajna aasrayah
Avikriyah svadrik heturvyaapako asangyanaavritah

Atman or Consciousness is eternal, immutable, pure, one alone, the resider of the temple of body, substratum (support for everything), changeless, self-seer or self-conscious, cause of the world, all-pervasive, unattached and without any veil or obstacle.


This is one part in Srimad Bhagavatham wherein the ultimate reality of Self or Consciousness or Lord is explained clearly and its characteristics are clearly put forth. Analyzing these characteristics will lead a seeker to realize that there is nothing here but the ultimate reality of Lord alone, one without a second. Prahlaada mentions 12 qualities of the Self and hence this is called as Dvaadasha lakshana of the Self.

Unlike other days, let us try to learn a few vedantic terms and concepts today (pardon the same). Lakshana or characteristic is not at all possible for the Self because the Self or Lord is Nirguna or without any qualities. But still we can explain the nature of the Self even as Sun which gives light to everything is characterized by “light-giver”. The lakshanas are not gunas or qualities which limit the Self but they are the very nature of the Self.

Guna or quality is something which limits or qualifies an entity. When I say that I am 6 feet tall, height of 6 feet limits the body. Thus height is a guna of the body. Whereas when I say that the lakshana or characteristic of fire is burning, burning is not a guna of fire but it is the very nature of fire. Guna can be split and distinguished from the entity whereas lakshana or svaroopa can never be distinguished from the entity even as burning cannot be split from fire.

Vedanta accepts three types of lakshanas for the ultimate reality of Lord depending on the state from which we view the reality. As we all know, Vedanta accepts three levels of reality of temporary, empirical and ultimate. Temporary reality is that of water seen in desert, dream etc. which is short-lived. Empirical reality is the waking world that we see which serves some purpose in the waking state. Ultimate reality is the Lord alone wherein there is no empirical changing and illusory world – this ultimate reality is termed as paaramarthika level wherein there is only the Lord.

The three lakshanas which Vedanta accepts for the Lord are:

1. Vyaavritta lakshana or separating characteristic – here the Lord is separated from all other things. Since here comparison is with respect to the temporary and illusory world, therefore this lakshana is valid at the empirical level. The Lord is mentioned by the scriptures as he who is the witness of the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. Whatever is happening in the three states is illumined by the Lord even as a lamp illumines the actors, stage, audience etc. in a drama. Thus the Lord is called as Kutastha or Sakshi or witness to everything in the world. The jeeva or limited being (which is consciousness associated with the body-mind complex) considers himself as real and thereby gets attached to things. But once the jeeva seeks the Lord, he realizes that he is a mere reflection of Kutastha thereby that he is none other than Kutastha or Lord alone. When the jeeva realizes his own very nature of Kutastha, then he ever remains immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord & this is what Vedanta terms as Jeevanmukthi or liberated while living.

2. Thatastha Lakshana or relative characteristic – the vyaavritta lakshana is that which tells the Lord to be different from illusory states and its objects. But here the characteristic goes a bit deeper & the Lord is mentioned as the cause of the world. The world even though is illusory, has a substratum from which it seems to have come, in which it seems to exist & unto which it will merge. This substratum is the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus the Lord is mentioned as the aasraya or substratum of the illusory world. We can as well say that saakshi bhaava is also a thatastha lakshana but the saakshi bhaava can be a vyaavritta lakshna as well depending on the perspective view (from the view of the three states saakshi is vyaavritta lakshana as different from the states, from the view of the saakshi or witness this is the thatastha lakshana as the substratum or illumination of the three states). We need not get confused over the same. One famous example of thatastha lakshana is given thus: A person was searching for a particular house. He asked a passerby who said that the house on which the crow is sitting is the house you are searching. This is thatastha lakshana wherein the house is characterized as that on which the crow is sitting. The crow will not sit permanently and hence this characteristic is not permanent – similar is the case of the causal nature of the Lord. The Lord is the cause only as long as the world is there – similarly the Lord is the saakshi only as long as the three states are experienced. But once the ultimate reality is known, then there are no states as well as no world – thus the thatastha lakshana becomes invalid at that time. This ultimate state is called as the fourth-state or turiya avasthaa in Mandukya Upanishad (the other three states being waking, dream and deep sleep).

3. Svaroopa lakshana or very nature – the previous two lakshanas are temporary as they are with respect to the illusory world. But this is the very nature of the Lord. The Lord is mentioned in the scriptures as of the nature of SAT (existence), CHIT (Consciousness) and ANANDA (bliss). The Lord is SAT because he is ever present and never ceases to exist. That alone exists always which can experience its own existence. A stone cannot be called as SAT because it doesn’t experience its own existence instead depends on the conscious jeeva for its existence. Thus SAT has to be conscious in nature or CHIT goes hand in hand with SAT. SAT as it is ever existent is not subject to any limitations or is infinite. Anything that is infinite has to be blissful in nature – hence the Lord is of the nature of ANANDA or bliss absolute. Some scriptures add on ANANTHA or infinite characteristic as well for the Self.

Prahlaada through the 12 lakshanas is clearly defined the ultimate reality of Lord or ATMAN so that the seeker clearly understands the Lord thereby making it easy for him to contemplate on the Lord at all times. As to the twelve characteristics of the Lord, we will see that the next day.

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