The importance of a prepared mind

(Tap or hover over green words for translation.)

An indirect knowledge of Brahman, the cause of the universe, can be conceived of, but there is no possibility of having indirect knowledge of ātmā, because it is always directly experienced. We cannot even really have indirect knowledge of what is said about ātmā in the śāstra. We can only say that we do not recognise the truth of what it says. One thing that we can all appreciate is that it is always self-evident, and everything else becomes evident to the self.

Both direct and indirect knowledge of anything are illumined by ātmā. You are the one who lights up both a cognition arising from perception and one born of inference, etc. Whether the object is directly or indirectly known by you, you light up the relevant thought form. This self-evident ātmā that illumines everything has to be recognized as paraṃ brahma.

Most seekers must make efforts for niṣṭhā in this knowledge. That is why Yājñavalkya mentions all three—śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana—as the means to seeing the ātmā. Only a very few require just śravaṇa, that is, only exposure to the pramāṇa. This was the case for Śvetaketu in the Chāndogyopaniṣad. Though he was shown the truth through the statement 'tat tvam asi—that thou art' only nine times by his father, that was adequate for him to gain the knowledge. Even the six students of the Praśnopaniṣad understood immediately what their teacher Pippalāda told them. Similarly, when Nārada went to Sanatkumāra, he understood the bhūmavidyā, the knowledge that I am Brahman, immediately on being taught. All these students recognised this immediately. But then, we also see people being described in the śāstra as doing meditation, upāsana, and practising austerities, tapas. Those of the first group are the most highly qualified, uttama-adhikārīs and the others are simply qualified, adhikārīs. They must make efforts.

Those who lack maturity do not see in spite of effort

Mere effort is not enough, however. A certain type of mind is required for those efforts to be meaningful. Though one may make all the prescribed efforts, one has to gather the capacity to inquire properly. That itself is a discipline. Further, one must have withdrawn from a life of improper activities. By a life of discipline, gaining a mastery over the senses, the other organs, and the mind, one's pursuit is not hindered by these. Bhagavān says, “Even though they make efforts, they do not see.” Why? Because they are akṛtātmanaḥ, have not gained proper antaḥ-karaṇa śuddhi through a life of karma yoga, and are acetasaḥ, lacking in viveka. The word acetasah, literally means 'those who do not have a cetas', mind. But there cannot be any one who does not have a mind. Therefore, Śaṅkara glosses this word as avivekinaḥ, those lacking in viveka, discrimination.

Since Vedānta works in some cases and not in others, we have to understand that something more than a pramāṇa is required, a prerequisite. As in seeing, mere eyes are not enough, but eyes that are free from defects are required. Only then are the eyes a pramāṇa. Since there is only one ātmā, there is no possibility of ātmā being different in the vision of Vedānta. If Vedānta is a means of knowledge, whoever listens should see the same sat-cit-ānanda-ātmā. But it does not happen that way.

'Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course' Ch.15 v.11 Swami Dayananda
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