Spiritual Message for the Day – Adhyasa (Superimposition) by Sri Swami Sivananda

Baba Times Digest© | 6 December 2014 07.30 PST | New York Edition

Adhyasa (Superimposition)

Divine Life Society Publication: Self-Knowledge by Sri Swami Sivananda

 ‘Adhyasa’ means the superimposition of the attributes of one thing on another thing as for example, the attributes of silver are superimposed on mother-of-pearls.

It means superimposition in the sense of mistaken ascription or imputation to something of an essential nature or attributes not belonging to it. Snake is superimposed on rope. This is Adhyasa. Kalpana, Bhranti, Adhyasa are synonymous terms. This world and body are superimposed upon Brahman or Atman.

The relation between the body and Atman is not one of Samyoga or Samavaya Sambandha. There cannot be any real connection between matter and spirit (Prakriti and Purusha). The connection is one of Adhyasa Sambandha (superimposition). It is the wrong notion in the mind that has connected Atman with the body. Atman is always Asariri (bodiless) or Atanu.

All differences are due to Upadhis or limiting adjuncts. As the limiting adjuncts are illusory or false, the differences caused by them are also false. Therefore Brahman alone who is one without a second is the balance left behind. He alone exists in the three periods of the time.

Adhyasa is the way of the mind to mistake one thing for another, the unreal for the real. It is not the cause of the appearance of this world. It is the cause of mistaking it as the real. It is born of ignorance. You mistake the body for the real Self. You identify yourself with the body. You are attached to it. You cling to it. This is Deha Adhyasa. Knowledge of the immortal Self will destroy the Adhyasa. Start the anti-current and always try to identify yourself with the pure all-pervading Atman.

This world is mere superimposition on Brahman (Adhyaropa). Apavada Yukti will eliminate this superimposition. Apavada is the abandoning of the notion that this universe is not really in Brahman like that of the wrong notion of silver in mother-of-pearl or water in the mirage and the being firmly convinced of the reality of the cause and not of the effects. There is no effect which is distinct from the cause. The pot is not separate and distinct from clay, the cloth is not separate and distinct from the thread, the golden ornaments are not separate and distinct from gold. Even so, this universe is not distinct and separate from Brahman.

That is Soul in which Jnana abides. It is of two kinds, Jivatma (individual soul) and Paramatma (supreme Soul). The supreme Soul is God, the omniscient. He is one only and free from joy and sorrow. The individual soul dwells in each body. It is all-pervading and eternal.

This body is your instrument but is not yourself. To be timid is the greatest sin. To be selfish is the greatest crime. To identify oneself with body is the greatest blunder. To forget one’s own Atman is the greatest error.

I will tell you a little story. Just hearken with rapt attention. There was once a baby lion left by its dying mother among some sheep. They took care of the baby lion. The baby lion grew into a big lion and bleated ‘Ba-a-a’. One day another lion came and heard the sheep-lion bleating along with other sheep. He was struck with amazement. He asked the sheep-lion: “Brother, what is the matter with you? Why are you here in such an abject state?” The sheep-lion replied: “I am a sheep. I am happy here amongst my brothers and sisters. You are under a false delusion.” He took the sheep-lion to the side of a river and showed him his reflection in the water. He said to the sheep-lion: “Look at your reflection now. You are a lion. I am a lion.” The sheep-lion looked at the reflection and then said in joy: “What a terrible mistake I have committed. I am certainly lion indeed. I am not a sheep at all.” He made a terrible roar and went along with the new lion.

Brother, you are also bleating like the sheep-lion. You have forgotten your real divine nature. You are hypnotised by Maya. De-hypnotise yourself and roar OM OM OM and become a lion of Vedanta. Thou art the Immortal Self. Do not identify yourself with the perishable body. Identify yourself with the undying, eternal Brahman and be free.

Just as the witness of a chair is different from the chair and is not the chair, so is the witness of this body. The nature of the witness is reality, bliss and knowledge. The chair and body are the insentient. Know, O Ram, therefore that you are not the body; you are the witnessing consciousness or Intelligence.

The appearance or duality or the apparent world of names and forms which is a stumbling block in the attainment of knowledge of the Atman must be dissolved. Then only you can know the true nature of Brahman. This does not mean that the objects animate or inanimate must be destroyed. The notion of duality must be abandoned. The names and forms should be sublated and the hidden essence must be grasped. As soon as the ignorance is destroyed the whole world of names and forms which had been hiding Brahman from you will melt away like the pictures of a dream.

Just as the water in the pot that is placed in the ocean becomes one with the waters of the ocean when the pot is broken, so also when the body-pot is broken by meditation on the Atman, the individual soul becomes identical with the Supreme Self.

Atman is indivisible, infinite and all-pervading. He is Sat-Chit-Ananda. The body is composed of many parts. It is finite. It is composed of flesh. And yet ignorant men identify the two. Can any ignorance be worse than this?

Atman is always the witnessing subject. It can never be the object. The subject is the universal Self whose nature is intelligence (Chit). The subject comprises whatever is of a non-intelligent nature Jada, viz., bodies with their senses and the objects of senses.

How can one describe the glory and greatness of Brahman. Even the Vedas have sung in praise of Him according to their limited capacity. No one has been able to find out His beginning or end. He walks without feet, grasps without hands, hears without ears, sees without eyes, tastes without a tongue, smells without a nose, feels without a skin, talks without a mouth, because He is a mass of pure consciousness. He is all-pervading. He has hands, feet, heads, faces everywhere. He is a wonderful entity. He is beyond the reach of mind and speech.

To define Brahman is to deny Brahman. The only adequate description of Brahman is a series of negatives. That is the reason why the sage Yajnavalkya declares in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad about Brahman as “Neti, Neti-not this, not this.” This means that the residue left after sublating the names and forms is Brahman. .

Knowing the nature of Brahman or Atman as such, attain freedom or perfection. Think yourself as bodiless. Identify yourself with the Supreme Self and enjoy the supreme peace and eternal bliss of your all-pervading Soul.

“Sir, Brahman has no form. How can you say ‘Brahmakara Vritti?” “I mean, my child, Brahman has not got the form which Mayaic objects have. Sat-Chit-Ananda itself is His form. Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam are His forms.”

Just as you cannot separate the pictures from the canvas, the engravings from the stone, so also you cannot separate the names and forms from the substratum, Adhishthana, Brahman.

Ear-rings, bracelets, armlets, necklaces are superimposed on gold. Similarly, all these appearances, names and forms are superimposed on Brahman, the support or basis for everything.

Atman is one and the same in all beings. It appears different in different persons on account of the Upadhi or limiting adjunct, Antahkarana (mind). Akasa is one and the same. On account of Upadhis of pot, cloud, room, etc., it is differentiated as Ghata-Akasa (pot-ether), Megha-Akasa (cloud-ether), Mat-Akasa (room-ether), etc. When the Upadhi-pot is destroyed, when the pot is broken, the pot-ether becomes identical with the universal ether. When the Upadhi-Antahkarana is annihilated by Sadhana, the individual becomes identical with the all-pervading consciousness.

An ignorant man only says that the Jiva and Brahman cannot be identical. He says that the former is subject to misery and the latter is above all misery. This is not correct. Jiva suffers on account of his identification with the body and mind. Jiva experiences the pangs of worldly existence on account of his ignorance and connection with the mind and body. When the ignorance is destroyed, through knowledge of the Self, when the connection with the body and mind ceases, when the mind is annihilated through destruction of desires, cravings, thoughts and egoism, the Jiva becomes identical with Brahman, Jivahood vanishes. He attains Brahmanhood.

An ignorant worldly-minded man who identifies himself with the physical body is a veritable cooly or Railway porter who carries this bundle of his own body daily wherever he moves.

Man in essence is a soul. He is fundamentally a spirit. He has put on this body to find out the Atman who is hidden in the chambers of his heart, to attain eternal bliss and to serve humanity with Atma Bhava.

Why dost thou weep, my child. Thou art the highest Truth. Thou art eternal bliss. Thou art the unchangeable entity. Thou art beyond the reach of mind and senses. Thou art infinite, indivisible and immortal. Thou art the Absolute One pervading everywhere. Thou art unbounded by time, unlimited like space. Thou hast neither birth nor death. Good and evil cannot touch thee.

Moksha is freedom from births and deaths. It is the attainment of eternal bliss. It has neither space nor time in itself; nor is there in it any state, external or internal. You are bound to attain Moksha or the final emancipation. Moksha is your goal. Kill this little ‘I’ or egoism through enquiry of ‘who am I?’ You will attain Moksha and shine as an Emperor of this world. May you attain Moksha in this very birth.

It will take a long time for the complete destruction of Deha-Adhyasa (identification with the body); and when you are perfectly established in Brahman, it will completely disappear. The more the Brahma-Bhavana, the more the Deha-Adhyasa will be thinned out. Therefore strengthen your Brahma-Bhavana daily by repeated Brahma-Chintana, by constant thinking of Brahman.

Excerpts from: Adhyasa (Superimposition) - Self-Knowledge by Sri Swami Sivananda


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If you would like to contribute to the dissemination of spiritual knowledge please contact the General Secretary at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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