Knowledge of Brahman (Supreme Reality)

February 3, 2011 Comments Off

Master: “Brahman is beyond vidya and avidya, knowledge and ignorance. It is beyond maya, the illusion of duality. The world consists of the illusory duality of knowledge and ignorance. It contains knowledge and devotion, and also attachment to ‘woman and gold’(lust and gold); righteousness and unrighteousness;  good and evil. But Brahman is unattached to these. Good and evil apply to the jiva, the individual soul, as do righteousness and unrighteousness; but Brahman is not at all affected by them.

One man may read the Bhagavata by the light of a lamp, and another may commit a forgery by that very light; but the lamp is unaffected. The sun sheds its light on the wicked as well as on the virtuous.

You may ask, ‘How, then, can one explain misery and sin and unhappiness?’ The answer is that these apply only to the jiva (the individual soul). Brahman is unaffected by them. There is poison in a snake; but though others may die if bitten by it, the snake itself is not affected by the poison.

What Brahman is cannot be described. All things in the world – the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras, the six systems of philosophy – have been defiled, like food that has been touched by the tongue, for they have been read or uttered by the tongue. Only one thing has not been defiled in this way, and that is Brahman. No one has ever been able to say what Brahman is.”

Vidyasagar (to his friends): “Oh! That is a remarkable statement. I have learnt something new today.”

Master: “A man had two sons. The father sent them to a preceptor to learn the knowledge of Brahman. After a few years they returned from their preceptor’s house and bowed low before their father. Wanting to measure the depth of their knowledge of Brahman, he first questioned the older of the two boys. ‘My child,’ he said, ‘you have studied all the scriptures. Now tell me, what is the nature of Brahman?’ The boy began to explain Brahman by reciting various texts from the Vedas. The father did not say anything. Then he asked the younger son the same question. But the boy remained silent and stood with eyes cast down. No word escaped his lips. The father was pleased and said to him: ‘My child, you have understood a little of Brahman. What It is cannot be expressed in words.’

Men often think they have understood Brahman fully. Once an ant went to a hill of sugar. One grain filled its stomach. Taking another grain in its mouth it started homeward. On its way it thought, ‘Next time I shall carry home the whole hill.’ That is the way shallow minds think. They don’t know that Brahman is beyond one’s words and thought. However great a man may be, how much can he know of Brahman? Sukadeva and sages like him may have been big ants; but even they could carry at the utmost eight or ten grains of sugar!

As for what has been said in the Vedas and the Puranas, do you know what it is like? Suppose a man has seen the ocean, and somebody asks him, ‘Well, what is the ocean like?’ The first man opens his mouth as wide as he can and says: ‘What a sight! What tremendous waves and sounds!’ The description of Brahman in the sacred books is like that. It is said in the Vedas that Brahman is of the nature of Bliss – It is Satchidananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute).

Suka and other sages stood on the shore of this Ocean of Brahman and saw and touched the water. According to one school of thought they never plunged into it. Those who do, cannot come back to the world again.

In samadhi (the state of super-consciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all knowledge and joy) one attains the Knowledge of Brahman – one realizes Brahman. In that state reasoning stops altogether, and man becomes mute. He has no power to describe the nature of Brahman.

Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. (All laugh). It wanted to tell others how deep the water was. But this it could never do, for no sooner did it get into the water than it melted. Now who was there to report the ocean’s depth?”

A devotee: “Suppose a man has obtained the Knowledge of Brahman in samadhi. Doesn’t he speak any more?”

Master: “Sankaracharya (one of the greatest philosophers of India) retained the ‘ego of Knowledge’ in order to teach others. After the vision of Brahman a man becomes silent. He reasons about It as long as he has not realized It. If you heat butter in a pan on the stove, it makes a sizzling sound as long as the water it contains has not dried up. But when no trace of water is left the clarified butter makes no sound. If you put an uncooked cake of flour in that butter it sizzles again. But after the cake is cooked all sound stops. Just so, a man established in samadhi comes down to the relative plane of consciousness in order to teach others, and then he talks about God.

The bee buzzes as long as it is not sitting on a flower. It becomes silent when it begins to sip the nectar. But sometimes, intoxicated with nectar, it buzzes again.

An empty pitcher makes a gurgling sound when it is dipped in water. When it fills up it becomes silent. (All laugh). But if the water is poured from it into another pitcher, then you will hear the sound again. (Laughter).

The rishis (sages; seers of Truth) of old attained the Knowledge of Brahman. One cannot have this so long as there is the slightest trace of worldliness. How hard the rishis laboured! Early in the morning they would go away from the hermitage, and would spend the whole day in solitude, meditating on Brahman. At night they would return to the hermitage and eat a little fruit or roots. They kept their minds aloof from the objects of sight, hearing, touch, and other things of worldly nature. Only thus did they realize Brahman as their own inner consciousness.

But in the Kaliyuga, man, being totally dependent on food for life, cannot altogether shake off the idea that he is the body. In this state of mind it is not proper for him to say, ‘I am He.’ When a man does all sorts of worldly things, he should not say, ‘I am Brahman.’ Those who cannot give up attachment to worldly things, and who find no means to shake off the feeling of ‘I’, should rather cherish the idea, ‘I am God’s servant; I am His devotee.’ One can also realize God by following the path of devotion.

The jnani (self-realized) gives up his identification with worldly things, discriminating, ‘Not this, not this’. Only then can he realize Brahman. It is like reaching the roof of a house by leaving the steps behind, one by one. But the vijnani, who is more intimately acquainted with Brahman, realizes something more. He realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof: bricks, lime, and brick-dust. That which is realized intuitively as Brahman, through the eliminating process of ‘Not this, not this’, is then found to have become the universe and all its living beings. The vijnani sees that the Reality which is nirguna, without attributes, is also sagua, with attributes.

A man cannot live on the roof a long time. He comes down again. Those who realize Brahman in samadhi come down also and find that it is Brahman that has become the universe and its living beings. In the musical scale there are notes sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni; but one cannot keep one’s voice on ‘ni’ a long time. The ego does not vanish altogether. The man coming down from samadhi perceives that it is Brahman that has become the ego, the universe, and all living beings. This is known as vijnana.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
hindu

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