Saturday, September 13, 2008

Svarūpe’vasthānam

A few days ago, one of my Gurukula students showed me a video he had downloaded from the internet about meditation. This was a very nicely animated computer graphics film showing the various pranic energies entering the subtle body, the kuṇḍalinī rising, and so on. Yogis love this stuff. You can see the more advanced yogis scoffing at the distractions that all this hullaballoo present to the serious seeker of liberation.

The Yoga-sūtra defines kaivalya as svarūpāvasthānam, or being situated in one’s svarūpa, i.e. true identity or constitutional position. This is stated at the beginning and at the end of the Yoga-sūtras


tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe’vasthānam

When one has stopped all the activities of the mind-field, then the individual, who is the seer, becomes situated in his true identity. (1.3)


puruṣārtha-śūnyānāṁ guṇānāṁ pratisavaṇaḥ kaivalyaṁ,
svarūpa-pratiṣṭhā vā citi-śaktir iti

Kaivalya or liberation means the resorption of the qualities that are devoid of meaning for the puruṣa (jiva), or the power of pure consciousness becomes fixed in its true identity. (4.34)
Now that yoga has become mixed up with Advaita Vedanta and just about every other version of non-theistic monism/Buddhism/New-Ageism, the original idea of the Yoga-sutras, which saw kaivalya or isolation of the individual consciousness as liberation, has been obscured.


tasmān na badhyate’ddhā na mucyate nāpi saṁsarati puruṣaḥ | 
badhyate mucyate saṁsarati ca nānāśrayā prakṛtiḥ ||

The puruṣa is not bound, is not liberated, nor is he caught up in saṁsāra. What is bound and liberated is prakṛti, in its various forms. (Sānkhya-kārikā 62)
nirviṣaya-caitanya-mātre’vasthānam ity arthaḥ | yathā japāpāye sphaṭikasyālohite sva-svarūpe’vasthānaṁ tathā vṛtty-apāye puruṣasya vṛtti-pratibimba-śūnye sva-svarūpe’vasthānam iti bhāvaḥ.

"This means beings situated in mere consciousness without any object. Just like the removal of a red flower (China rose, hibiscus) from a crystal results in the redness of its reflection being removed and the crystal's true clear nature being revealed, so in the same way, when the vrittis or modifications of the mind-field are removed, one is situated in one's true identity which is devoid of the reflections of those vrittis."

“Patanjali like Kapila rests satisfied with the isolation of the soul and does not pry into the how and where the soul abides after separation.” (Muller. SSIP 405)

And Swami Veda writes, “When the yogi comes into ordinary life vyutthāna and sees that time has elapsed, he infers that he was in the state of samādhi.” (1.51) So basically, it is a condition like that of deep sleep. Indeed, its definition does not seem considerably different from the way deep sleep is usually described. Naming it "the fourth" is not particularly helpful if all it is is a state of suspended animation.

There are plenty of texts in the Bhagavatam that seem to support this doctrine, and indeed, they do not prima facie indicate that there is anything beyond a monad of pure consciousness, either floating in a sea of Brahman or merged with it.


yatreme sad-asad-rūpe pratiṣiddhe sva-saṁvidā
avidyayātmani kṛte iti tad brahma-darśanam
yady eṣoparatā devī māyā vaiśāradī matiḥ
sampanna eveti vidur mahimni sve mahīyate
evaṁ ca janmāni karmāṇi hy akartur ajanasya ca
varṇayanti sma kavayo veda-guhyāni hṛt-pateḥ

When these gross and subtle forms are denied through self-knowledge, being recognized as created by ignorance, at that moment one attains realization of Brahman. If the Lord’s Māyā should recede and the soul become enriched with divine consciousness, then, say the wise, he is established in one’s own glory. And, in the same way, the wise describe the births and activities of the unborn and inactive Lord of the Heart, which are hidden to the Vedas. (SB 1.3.33-35)

Being "established in one's own glory" is an expression from the Chandogya Upanishad that permeates Vedantic literature and means more or less the same things as svarūpe’vasthānam. It is still ambiguous, because it does not enter into a discussion of what this "glory" entails. "Self-realization" through the negative process simply denies, one after the other, the false concepts of self as identified with the body, mind and so on. It does not say what is left after we clear all those false identifications away.

What is left? Buddhists say nothing. Yogis say the purusha as a pure monad in isolation. Brahmavadins say identity with Brahman. But they all have the assumption that simply going through the negative process will be sufficient and will reveal the true self. Of course, they are all emphatic in their attempts to erase any false identifications, and Swami Veda is adamant that you will find out what is there when you get there. God is too great to describe, that state is too transcendent to material experience, for it to be spoken of in any meaningful way.

The Bhagavata sometimes seems ambiguous in its statement of a transcendental reality. Indeed, the above Bhagavata verses only indirectly state that Lord’s birth and activities are not material and that’s why one has to become completely free from the identification with material body to be able to realize them. The phrase brahma-darśanam indicates direct realization of the Lord and His pastimes. For this purpose, great persons describe the birth and activities of the unborn Lord, which are confidentially told in the Vedas. This also indicates that the bliss of hearing the Lord’s pastimes is superior to the bliss of impersonal realization; otherwise self realized persons like Shukadeva would not have an iota of interest in them. This certainly proves that the Lord’s pastimes are not material and it is with this intention Süta Gosvāmé refers to the Lord as akartā (“the non-doer”), and ajana (“the unborn”).

Jiva Goswami explains: “In the same way” (evaṁ) refers back to the two immediately preceding verses (1.3.33-34), where it was stated that one gets Brahman realization after becoming free from the self-identification with the subtle and gross bodies caused by ignorance, through the acquisition of proper knowledge about one’s true nature, and that one attains the wealth of one’s true nature on being freed from material bondage. In the same way, the wise, who are self-satisfied transcendentalists (ātmārāma), describe the births and activities of the Lord of the Heart, the Supersoul.

In other words, only when one becomes free from false identification with the gross and subtle bodies, and from material conditioning, does one attain the riches that are an intuitive understanding of His birth and acts. The word “riches” (sampatti) here means direct vision (sākṣād-darśana). Therefore, the underlying intent is to say that the births and activities of the Lord are manifestations of His bliss as Bhagavān (bhagavad-ānanda), which exceeds that coming from His natural state of being (svarūpānanda). For this reason it was said of the Lord that He is “inactive” (akartuh) and “unborn” (ajanasya), in order to distinguish his birth and activities from material ones. Thus they are “hidden to the Vedas.”


Actually, I was thinking today that meditation is really a "liminal" state, on the cusp between life and death. It is not exactly the same as deep sleep, but it is not "life" as we think of it. Certainly it is an absence of suffering, if one can be free of bodily and mental discomforts, but it is questionable whether we can call it ānanda.

To me, ānanda or bliss, the fullness of life, comes through love. Love implies other concrete, present, living interactions with other living beings. The purpose of "negative" practices, which cleanse the mind and psyche of dross and "macula" (as Swami Veda so likes to say) is simply to make that possible.

The question that arises in the Sahaja Sadhana is this: As one becomes more and more focused on the transcendental nature of the presence of the beloved one in sadhana, this world itself becomes increasingly imbued with the numinous quality of divinity. The loved object becomes the Divinity. The symbols of the Divine recede into the background, even though they remain real and necessary, but real and necessary only as footholds for the experience of the here and now of love. Its framework of meaning, as it were. But the very essence of this practice is the repeated experience of the pure self in union with another pure self. It is the coming out of isolation. This "coming out of isolation" is really where the ānanda lies.

At this point, life itself becomes the divine pastime. The beloved himself or herself is the incarnation of God. This in turn becomes the backdrop that gives meaning to the lila of Radha and Krishna, the archetypes of love into whom all love stories merge. On one level, what happens after death or what happens to the true self beyond all identifications becomes meaningless: one is living the archetypal life of love.

No comments: