evamvidhe jnanamaye sukhatmake katham bhavo duhkhamayah pratiyate ajnanato ‘dhyasavasatprakasate jnane viliyeta virodhatah ksanat.
In this pure Self, which is of the nature of pure Consciousness and infinite Bliss, how can one perceive a pain-ridden world of names and forms ? It appears only because of the nonapprehension (of the Self) and consequent misapprehensions (of the body-mind-intellect equipments). When Knowledge (realization) takes place, ignorance disappears instantaneously, it being contrary to Knowledge.
If Atman is, indeed, blissful, how do we experience this pain-ridden, endless misery of a pluralistic world ? In the changeless, immutable Self, which is ever of the nature of pure Knowledge and infinite Bliss, how can there be even a whiff of perception of samsara, the endless flood of birth and death ? If the Self is blissful and One without a second, how do we perceive and experience the world, which is of opposite nature – riddled with pain and full of plurality ? In the nonapprehension of the Self (ajnana), our misapprehension of the equipments arises; superim-posing the nature of the not-Self upon the Self, we experience illusory world of endless miseries.
Illusion, or Maya, expresses itself in us as the veiling power (avarana) in the intellect, and as agitations (viksepa) in the mind. When our true nature is thus veiled from our direct perception, an entire chain of miseries is generated, including our sense of ego, from which our bondage and its endless sorrows and pains arise.
Is there an escape from this calamitous state ? The teacher points out that knowledge alone can wipe out ignorance – instantaneously, effortlessly. All the names and forms projected by ignorance suddenly disappear to become the one, all-consuming experience of the Self.
yadanyadanyatra vibhavyate bhrama-dadhyasamityahuramum vipascitah asarpabhute ‘hivibhavanam yatha rajjvadike tadvadapisvare jagat.
To perceive a thing to be something other than itself and to recognize the thing to be only what your perceive it to be is called by the wise the phenomenon of superimposition. Just as in the rope, which has no serpent, we see the serpent only, so too we see world of plurality (superimposed) upon the Lord.
To recognize the world of plurality (ajnana) on something other than itself (anyata), meaning Brahman, due to delusion (bhramat), we imagine (vibhavyate) Brahman to be nothing other than world of plurality. Vedantic literature calls this phenomenon superimposition (adhyasa). This is vivified by the classical example repeated by Rama: upon a rope (and other round, long things which have nothing to do with a serpent), in delusion, one perceives a crawling serpent with its hood spread, ready to bite.
Similarly, upon Brahman, which has none of the qualities of the finite world of plurality, the deluded individual, through an act of superimposition, recognizes a world of ever-changing names and forms. In the snake-rope example, nothing but the rope, in fact, exists, but due to the dim light of the gathering gloom of dusk, we misapprehend it as a snake, which quite naturally elicits fear. In truth, nothing but Brahman exists, One without a second, blissful and perfect. Yet, in the nonapprehension of this Reality, we entertain the misapprehension of a world of plurality riddled with sorrows and clothed in imperfections. In Vedanta-sastra, this delusory vision of the serpent in the rope is called the vivarta-theory.
When a thing, without losing its own essential nature, provides experiences other than itself, it is called vivarta. The snake is the vivarta of the rope. This world of plurality is the vivarta of Brahman. In Aparoksanubhuti, Sankara explains this theory very clearly:
Just as the blue color in the sky, just as the illusion of mirage waters in the desert, just as the ghost in the post, so too the world of happenings upon the pure Self.
Just as in a lonely place a deluded one may get frightened of a terrible face (vetala), jsut as in an idle moment one detects an entire city among the clouds (castles in the air), just as due to a defect in our eyes we may actually see a pair of moons in the sky, similarly, in truth we perceive the dynamic world of happenings.
Earlier Sri Rama had demanded that his disciple recognize Brahman, enjoy its delicious sweetness, and throw away the world of plurality as we do the empty shell of a tender coconut. Now, the moment he reaches the understanding that the snake is only a superimposition (adhyasa), the student recognizes the rope: there is no thing else for him to throw away ! Similarly, on awakening to Brahman, there is, in fact no world to be rejected. Brahman is all-inclusive. Vedanta rejects nothing, accepts everything, but keeps nothing.
vikalpamayarahite cidatmake – ‘hankara esa prathamah prakalpitah adhyasa evatmani sarvakarane niramaye brahmani kevale pare
In Brahman, which is untouched by the projections of Maya – in that pure Consciousness, the Substratum of all, which is untainted and ever pure, first arises an egocentric self-consciousness. This is a mere superimposition upon the Self.
From the pure Self, how can a world of plurality arise ? The Self is without the thought-agitations of the mind, and from this thoughtless state of pure Consciousness – which is of the nature of pure Knowledge unmuddied by the sorrows of the world – from this Self, a conceptual sense of an individualized ego is imagined. Thus, ego is the first misapprehension projected by Maya, the nonapprehension of Reality. The misconception that “I am the body, mind, and intellect,” and, therefore, “I am the perceiver, feeler, thinker” is the sense of doership and enjoyership that constitutes the individualized ego, which is the very first superimposition. In fact, there is no ego. There is nothing but the pure Self.
icchadiragadi sukhadidharmikah sada dhiyah samsrtihetavah pare yasmatprasuptau tadabhavatah parah sukhasvarupena vibhavyate hi nah.
The endless desires, the innumerable attachments, the varieties of pleasure are all the various conditions of the intellect and are the causes of samsara that always appear in the supreme Self. They belong to the intellect only, since they are absent in the state of deep sleep when the intellect is absent; at that time we experience the Self, which is of blissful nature.
In deep sleep, when the intellect is folded up, none of the various conditions of the intellect disturb the deep sleeper; he experiences only the bliss of sleep. Once the ego rises, the intellect, veiled by its nonapprehension, encourages the mind to project with its agitations a world of delusory objects. Thus, we come to misapprehend pure Brahman.
These misapprehensions are mere superimpositions upon Brahman, as the snake is superimposed on the rope. This process is the cause for the experience of the world of plurality. Desires and desirelessness, attachment and detachment, pain and pleasure – these pairs are indicated by the addition of adi (etcetera) to each of these words; indeed, without a doubt, they all belong to the inner equipment (buddhi). The term sada (always) indicates that these pairs are not of the nature of Brahman but belong to the inner equipment only, at all times and under all conditions. Identifying with these, the individualized ego comes to suffer the tossings of the world of plurality.
Students will not easily accept the fact that these pairs of opposites belong only to the inner equipment; therefore, the teacher reminds the student that proof lies in his own experience. In deep sleep, when the inner equipment quiets itself, all these urges of doership and enjoyership end. The individual in sleep experiences a vast expanse of bliss, which is the nearest experience that the deluded can have of the nature of the supreme Self. Upon awakening, we all have a strikingly similar response: “I had a good sleep. I enjoyed it well. It was blissful sleep.” Atman, the Self, as Consciousness, is the illumining factor in our lives. It is ever present, even in sleep, to illumine the absence of things, which we apprehend as joy, which is the very nature of Atman. Only in deep sleep does the buddhi no longer function, and thus no longer creates the illusions of desire.
anadyavidyodbhavabuddhibimbito jivah prakaso ‘yamitiryate citah atma dhiyah saksitaya prthak sthito buddhyaparicchinnaparah sa eva hi.
The light of pure Consciousness reflected in the intellect, which is born out of beginningless ignorance, is called jiva, the individualized ego. The Self as a mere witness ever revels as separate from the intellect. That which is thus not conditioned by thoughts is, indeed, the Paramatman, the supreme Self.
The direct word meaning of “thou” in the famous mahavakya “That thou art” is the individualized ego, which is the subject of Sri Ramacandra’s discussion in this verse. Out of the nonapprehension of Reality, which is recognized as timeless ignorance, is born the thought-flow, the buddhi, which represents the entire inner equipment. The light of Consciousness caught up in the play of these thoughts is the individualized, conscious ego. This is the direct meaning of the word “thou” in the mahavakya.
The individualized ego is limited in its knowledge and power. It recognize itself as the doer and the enjoyer, the happy and unhappy entity. Just as the sun is reflected in a bucket of water and appears to be the sun-in-the-bucket, so too the light of Consciousness caught up in the web of our thoughts appears to be the individuality.
In short, our thoughts glowing in the borrowed light of the Self is the intelligent, individualized ego. This reflected consciousness (cidabhasa), the ego, is that by whose glory the intellect has its intelligence with which we can observe, analyse, and come to our endless decisions and rational conclusions. This sense of ego in each one of us is considered by us as our true self, and we refuse even to try to apprehend the real Self beyond it.
The true Self is that which stands as a witness, uncontaminated by the intellect and its thoughts, merely illumining them. This illuminator of the thought flow is a mere witness, totally unattached by all the convulsions of the inner equipment. The unattached Self is ever immaculate: it never gets contaminated by the quality, quantity, or condition of the inner equipment (asango na hi sajjate).
The Self, without any modification, ever remains as something other than the flood of thoughts; when the sun in the bucket appears to be dancing, the sun in the sky is unaffected by the movement of the water in the bucket.
The Self is beyond the inner equipment; it merely blesses it with its own life. It is not conditioned by the quality or nature of the thoughts. Ever unconditioned by them is the pure Self.