Sri Bimal Mohanty
KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, REALISATION AND CONSCIOUSNESS -Continued
Based on the lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty
So the key to right door, lies in being able to differentiate between Shreya jnanam and Preya jnanam in every step of one’ life. Every action needs to be tested against this acid test.
When we simply describe it as ‘knowledge that brings good’ against ‘knowledge that is mere pleasant’ it may sound easy enough. Yet, to arrive at the right discrimination, it takes intense contemplation of a life time- nay, the time of many lives perhaps. Even the wise men falter when confronted with the dilemma in deciding as what to do and what not to do; Kim karma kim akarmeti kavayopy atra mohitAh.
Study of shreyas and preyas has been always in the minds of people. Not only words from wise men, but the rustic humour to explain the difference between preyas and shreyas is quite apt. When you keep scratching your eczema you feel nice and keep scratching more and more. Only when blood comes out and aggravates the eczema, you realize it has not been the right thing to do. Applying the ointment even if it burns a little would have been right and a good thing for long run. That is how in common parlance shreyas and preyas are understood.
Now consider also in the background of the views of Swami Sivananda of The Divine Life Society.
‘The philosophy of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita deals with the situation of the individual pilgrim soul upon this earth plane, in the midst of the very vexing problems that constitute an inevitable part of the individual's life. It takes the life of the jivatma in this prapancha, beset by the dvandvas, love and hate, like and dislike, attachment and repulsion. It takes the life of the jivatma faced with the situation of an inner, essential conflict between what one would like to do and what one is required to do, between one's sentiments, emotions and attachments and one's duty in one's station in life. It takes the life of an individual trying to grapple with this inner conflict of bhavana (feeling) and kartavya (duty), this inner conflict of the sreya (good) and the preya (pleasant), this inner conflict of dharma, which is very difficult.
(This conflict) provides the necessary strength to the individual by enlightening him with the hidden reality of the situation. Because of his insufficient understanding, his lack of proper perspective, the individual takes the situation to be what it appears to be and does not try to analyse it beyond and behind the surface appearance, nor try to understand it as it is in essence. He thus takes to a certain course of action which is contrary to his own highest welfare and supreme good and which is also contrary to the good of the world in which he lives.’
In other words, the transactory knowledge or the vyavaharika jnana often influences us at the cost of paramarthika jnana or transcedentory knowledge. Lest we jump into wrong conclusions, it must be said that transactory knowledge is not something to be denigrated. All that is emphasized is that, all knowledge must aim at the transcedentory knowledge and strive to serve its purpose. Even if temporarily adequate, it will always be seen – in after thought- that transactory knowledge has only provided a stop-gap solution. Only the transcedentory knowledge or paramarthika jnana clears the entire cloud. Similarly, indulging in preyas may bring some temporary satisfaction but if we aim at a permanent solution, we must aim at what is shreyas – transcend towards paramarthika.
The transactory knowledge is useful in our transactions as the name suggests. It should not be and can not be eliminated from life. But the yogi simply does not stop there. He recognizes its value but looks for the paramarthika message hidden within. He accepts it as the stepping stone for the higher knowledge, unlike normal human beings who forget all about a problem once it is out of the way. That is not a holistic approach. Because what is put away will revisit again.
Both are knowledge. Therefore it is not a question of either this or that. The vyavaharika should lead to paramarthika.
This forces us to delve deep into understanding clearly, the very concept of knowledge itself and thereby the importance of consciousness or chetana.
As we discussed before, the Mundaka Upanishad where this question is raised, also goes to length in explaining what is indeed true knowledge. So also does The Chandogya.
This english word ‘knowledge’ is so generic and unclear in its meaning that, it gives little scope for a wider understanding. In sanskrt, we have atleast three words, which help to differentiate between levels of knowledge. We have vidya, jnAna and vijnAna. Although no clear cut english translations are available, these can be roughly translated as textual knowledge as in books and also acquired by seeing, hearing etc as vidya, understanding of that at intellect level as jnAna, and realisation at consciousness level as vijnAna. Lord Krishna makes similar distinction in the seventh chapter of Bhagavad Gita, - the JnAna VijnAna Yoga.
When JnAna gets refined to VijnAna it becomes shreya or paramarthika or true jnana.
Earlier we have discussed about the definition of true jnana.
Adhyatma jnana nitvatam tattva jnarthadarshanam
Until the jnana becomes conscious of the essence of Brahman, it is not refined knowledge. The mind must recognize that beyond the surface understanding, there is always a deeper and more profound hidden truth about the outcome of knowledge which it must discover. Brahman is that truth. The consciousness of Brahman takes us nearer to that truth.
According to Sanatan philosophy the road to knowledge ends in Brahman only. Brahman is described not only as jnanam but also jnanagamayam, the final destination of all knowledge. Since in our entire journey it is only knowledge that lightens the path, one must always walk with Brahman in his mind, in constant awareness and conscious of Brahman.
What we gather on our way is lower knowledge or Apara Vidya The same apara vidya when it reaches and gets assimilated at the consciousness level becomes para vidya. It then assumes value, width and depth. It then has the power to transform and remould you into a ‘better being’ as Sri Aurobindo would put it. Between aparavidya and paravidya, the vidya does not change, it is we who change. It is the first level of transformation. That is how Brahmachetana or Brahma consciousness transforms everything.
When the mind remains rooted in the vyavaharik or transactory knowledge, it is not yet conscious of the higher truth and remains the mind of an atheist. It denies Brahma in its ignorance. Only when it transcends to seek deeper it turns to theism and become contemplative of the knowledge beyond surface knowledge, life beyond mundane living.
The state of Brahman consciousness is not a state where mind, intellect and ego-self are eliminated, but the state of going beyond their influence and acknowledging the influence of a greater power that always stands by you and works for you.
Brahman consciousness is not a characteristic of a recluse as most people believe. It is simply retaining in your conscious and subconscious state the awareness of this greater power- The Brahman.
Even if one is not engaged in elaborate rituals or physical practice of religion, simply cultivating this awareness has great practical usefulness.
Consciousness of Brahman or Brahmachetana is a kavacha or armour that you constantly wear, a protective force field from which evils and mishaps bounce off. This is no figment of imagination. Even today, amidst the frustrations of life, there are thousands who still lead a life of serene sanity by simply developing an undercurrent of Divine awareness within themselves. You see them in every walk of life. If they can, why can not you?
The mantra is ‘manmana bhava’ – be conscious of me, says Lord. Colossal may be life’s problems, but there are also solutions. This is not a matter of argument. It is a matter of faith and self experience, beyond the reach of the so called ‘scientific’ proofs. Ask them who are experiencing this daily.
Right behaviour and action flows from a ‘conscious mind’ and it is not difficult to practice. The simple illustration given by the management Gurus also explains this. Imagine a group of people engaged in various activities in a project of say road laying, township construction or temple building. Some look at their activity as simply stone breaking or brick laying etc. But a few look at their work conscious of the great value of the project. They are invariably better achievers.
Developing awareness of Brahman is achieved through yoga alone, yoga that is connectivity. Yoga imparts competence to our actions with Brahman as the guiding pole star. Yoga karmasu kaushalam.
Sometimes, when we lose this consciousness, this temporary loss becomes the cause of our misery. During this period the jiva acquires a peculiar falsehood that there is no body else but he alone as the doer. All powers are his power. When any action is done based on this falsehood some are bound to go wrong and create misery and unhappiness. When the assistance of Brahman is always available only a fool or mudhamati will deny Him.
Consciousness has to be our nature. Constant awareness has to be fused into our character. Its influence is so beneficial that followers of sanatan dharma – more particularly the hindus- devised many simple, practical and traditional ways to serve them as constant reminders and often misunderstood by others in their true perspective. Why do we name our children after gods and goddesses? Why do we hang devas’ devis’ pictures, keep idols all around the house? Why divinity is superimposed on names of places, rivers, mountains all around? Why we utter or write the name of the Lord like ‘om’, ‘sri ganeshaya namah’ etc before every endevour? Why we offer the first morsel of food to the Lord before consuming it? We search the presence of Brahman in any and every object around us. Do not underestimate its power, all you wise men.
Brahman consciousness was once the deliberate character of people at least in this part of the world. By that they achieved greatness. When they turned away from it, by themselves or by manipulation by others, they lost their freedom, their greatness and their character.
The great seers of the past, knew this could happen. Thus they cried out seeking Divine help and we have these words from The Sama Veda brahmana:
MAham Brahma nirAkuryAm
MA mA Brahma nirakarot
AnirAkaranam astu anirAkaranam me astu
May I never ignore or deny Brahman. May not Brahman ever deny or ignore me. May not Brahman ever reject me. Let me never reject Brahman.
These are words worth remembering all one’s lifetime.