The First Step of the Aspirant by Swami Krishnananda

Baba Times Digest© | 11 April 2014 15:29 EST | New York Edition

The First Step of the Aspirant

Divine Life Society Publication: - The Realisation of The Absolute by Sri Swami Krishnananda

Vedanta is the Science of Reality. Reality is uncontradicted experience, the experience that is not transcended or sublated by any other experience. Naturally, Reality must be imperish-able, for perishability marks a state or a thing as unreal. Imperishability means, at the same time, unlimitedness, for limit is non-independence and non-absoluteness, which means changefulness. Changelessness is the nature of Truth. The world which we live in is characterized by change and destruction. The world includes the individual, also. The body of an individual is a part of the world as a whole. The changing character of the world is kept up by changing events, changing actions, changing thoughts and feelings. Hence, the quest for Reality must necessarily be of a nature quite different from the natural ways of the world. The seeker after the Real has to be specially equipped with the power of separating Truth from falsehood; Reality from the unreal, transient universe.

The change required of an aspirant after the Real is not an ordinary external one, but a total transfiguration of life itself. This extraordinary change in life is hard to be had; the seeker after Perfection is asked to get himself ready for this great change for good.

The immediate reality which presents itself before us is the physical body situated in the physical world. Hence the first discipline required is of bodily actions or karma. Karma has a special significance in religion and philosophy. In addition to service devoid of individualistic motive or desire, karma means the selfless performance of one’s own prescribed duty without reluctance or failure. Every person is expected to be either a brahmachari, a grihastha, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. One should not live, as far as it is within one’s capacity, in a stage which is not one of these four. And also, a person can belong to only one ashrama at a time, not to more than one. Performance of one’s own duty means the observance of the ashrama-dharma. Nitya and naimittika karmas pertaining to an ashrama constitute svadharma or one’s own duty, as far as the Vedanta philosophy is concerned with it. Kamya-karmas are excluded from svadharma.

The rigid observance of svadharma renders the mind pure (shuddha), freeing it from mala, the gross tamas and rajas which are the deluding and the distracting factors in it. The Vedanta prescribes upasana or the worship of and meditation on the personal God (Saguna Brahman) to those who have thus already purified their nature or attained chitta-shuddhi through nishkama-karma. Upasana removes vikshepa and brings chitta-ekagrata or one-pointedness of mind. It is this prepared aspirant who is qualified with shuddhi and ekagrata of chitta that is required to possess the sadhana-chatushtaya, the ethical requisites which are directly connected with the entrance to the main court of Vedanta-sadhana.

Sadhana-chatushtaya means the fourfold equipment, the necessary means to brahma-vidya, which removes avarana or the veil of ignorance. The discussion about the adhikari is one of the main subjects in the Vedanta. The first of these sadhanas is viveka or clear discrimination between the Eternal Principle and the perishable universe of names and forms. Viveka generally comes through purva-punya or the effect of past meritorious deeds accelerated by the perception of pain and death here. Satsanga is another factor which generates viveka. Perhaps satsanga is the greatest of all the means that transforms a person from worldliness to divine life. Satsanga leads to viveka and vichara, consciousness of the inadequacy of the phenomenal world and enquiry into the nature of Truth.

Viveka creates an indifference to the world and its contents. This supreme indifference born of viveka is the second of the four means, vairagya. True vairagya is the effect of correct discrimination and not of mere failure in life. Real dispassion is the consequence of the perception of the impermanence of things, the falsity of the existence of happiness in objects, the knowledge of the distinction between Reality and appearance. This vairagya reaches even up to Brahmaloka, the highest phenomenal manifestation, and discards it as defective. Thus, vairagya is distaste for everything that is objective (including one’s own body). It is not possible to love the Eternal as long as there is faith in the impermanent. Immortality and mortality are set against each other. Passion for the world and its objects is opposed to devotion to the Supreme Being, even as darkness is against light. Where the latter is, the former is not. Vairagya is the gateway to the knowledge of what truly is.

The third of the requisites is shatsampat or the sixfold wealth of internal discipline and virtues. (1) Tranquillity of mind (shama) which is the result of viveka and vairagya, (2) Self-restraint (dama) or control of the senses which is the effect of the knowledge of the ultimate worthlessness of the forms of external objects, (3) Cessation from distracting activity connected with the world (uparati), (4) Fortitude (titiksha) or the power to endure the ravages of Nature, like heat and cold, hunger and thirst, censure and praise, insult and injury, etc., (5) Faith (shraddha) in God, Preceptor, Scripture and the Voice of one’s own purified Conscience, and (6) One-pointedness of mind (samadhana), i.e., resting of the mind in the spiritual Ideal alone to the exclusion of everything else, are the six spiritual qualities which together make up the shatsampat. All these virtues are to be developed on the basis of correct understanding or clarified intelligence and not by mere force. The greater and more purified the understanding, the more precious and diviner is the virtue.

The last of the four means is mumukshutva or an ardent yearning for freeing oneself from the ignorance of finite life. These are the important conditions that are to be fulfilled by every aspirant after the Absolute Truth, before he actually starts sadhana in its strict sense. It is to be, however, pointed out again, that none of these sadhanas is to be practiced with brute force without proper purification and a brilliant discrimination.

Excerpts from: 

The First Step of the Aspirant - The Realisation of The Absolute by Sri Swami Krishnananda

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