Advaita Bodha Deepika (Lamp of non-dual knowledge) On of the few books highly spoken of by Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharshi.
1. D.: Master, on hearing it from you, the nature of the Self is now clear to me, but the knowledge remains only indirect. Kindly instruct me in reflection, by practising which the darkness of Ignorance now hiding the Self may vanish and direct experience result.
2. M.: Always to direct the thought with subtle reasoning upon the non-dual Self that is now known indirectly, is called reflection.
3-4. D.: Please tell me its ’cause’, ‘nature’, ‘effect’, ‘limit’ and ‘fruit’.
M.: Discernment of the real from the unreal is its ’cause’; enquiry into the Truth of the non-dual Self is its ‘nature’; to tear off that veiling aspect of Ignorance which makes one say “It does not shine forth” is its ‘effect’; the non recrudescence of this veiling is its ‘limit’; and direct experience is its ‘fruit’. So say the sages.
5. D.: Why is discernment said to be its ’cause’?
M.: Only he who, by discernment of the real from the unreal has acquired indirect knowledge, is fit to seek by enquiry the direct knowledge of experience. No other can succeed in the search for it.
6. D.: Why should not the Desire for Liberation be the ’cause’ of reflection?
M.: A mere desire to be Liberated cannot make a man fit for enquiry into the Self. Without sravana one cannot have even an indirect knowledge. How can one succeed in one’s enquiry? Only after knowing the nature of the Self, should one proceed to seek It. Ignorant of Its true nature, how can one investigate the Self? Simple desire to be liberated will not suffice.
7. D.: Should not this desire lead to enquiry? With the rise of this desire the man will begin to hear about the nature of the Self and gain indirect knowledge which must enable him to undertake the enquiry.
M.: This amounts to saying that the seeker possesses discernment. He is not only desirous of Liberation but also discerning in intellect. With sravana comes this faculty of intellectual discernment of the real from the unreal, or the Self from the non-self. This is called indirect knowledge. The shastras say that only he who possesses indirect knowledge can discern the real or the Self from the unreal or the non-self, and is fit for enquiry into the Self. Therefore discernment is the sine qua non for enquiry.
8-12. D.: Even if the desire for Liberation be not the particular (visesha) cause of Reflection, could not either desirelessness or tranquillity be the cause of it?
M.: All these are only general aids for reflection but not its particular causes. A desireless and tranquil man need not necessarily have the indirect knowledge of the Self and is therefore unfit for enquiry into the Self. There are men of austerities who are desireless and tranquil but not anxious for Liberation. Having no desire for Liberation they have not heard at all about the Self.
D.: How can they be said not to be desirous of Liberation? M.: Inasmuch as they engage in austerities without taking to sravana etc., which is the only gateway to Liberation, the absence of desire for Liberation is inferred.
D.: No. They too can be desirous of being Liberated.
M.: If so, they must give up their austerities, always remain with a master and engage themselves in hearing of the Self. If it be said that they have already done sravana also, then since they have gained indirect knowledge, they should be engaged in reflection. Not having done sravana, though endowed with desirelessness and tranquillity, they are incapable of discerning the real from the unreal and therefore unfit for enquiry into the Self. Desirelessness etc. can only be aids to this enquiry but not its chief causes. Discernment of the real from the unreal is the only chief cause.
13-14. D.: Can the Self not be realised by austerities accompanied by desirelessness and tranquillity, without enquiry?
M.: No. By non-enquiry the Self has been lost sight of; to regain It enquiry is needed. In its absence how can even crores of austerities restore the sight? Always to enquire into the Self is the only remedy for the blindness of the ignorant whose mental eye has been bedimmed by the darkness of non-enquiry spreading its veil. Unless by the eye of knowledge gained through enquiry, the Self cannot be realised.
15-16. D.: What is this enquiry into the Self?
M.: With one-pointed intellect to seek within the five sheaths the Self which is shining forth as “I” in the body, senses etc., considering “who is this Self?, where is It? and how is It?”, is the nature of the enquiry into the Self. With subtle intellect the enquiry into the Reality, namely the Self within the unreal sheaths must always be pursued.
17. D.: Earlier it was said that the Self is all-permeating. How can the all-permeating Self be looked for only in the sheaths? Moreover the sheaths are said to be unreal. How can an enquiry into unreal things lead to the recognition of Reality?
18-19. M.: Truly the Self is all-permeating. Still Its knowledge is obscured by the covering of the five sheaths. The Self which lies hidden in them must be looked for only there and not elsewhere. A thing is sought in the place where it was lost. Something lost at home is not looked for in a forest. In the same manner the Self hidden in five sheaths and remaining unrecognised by wrong identification with them must be found only by sifting the unwanted elements, here the five sheaths.
D.: How can an investigation into unreal things lead to the recognition of the Reality?
M.: The unreal coverings must be removed to disclose the Reality hidden in them. They are superimposed on the Real Self. They must be examined and ascertained to be unreal so that their substratum which is the sole Reality can be known. Unless the external trappings that are superimposed are looked into, their substratum, that is the Reality, cannot be found. Has any one in the world been able to find the rope without looking and enquiring into the nature of the seeming snake, though this is superimposed on it and unreal? Or can there be any one, who having enquired into the superimposed snake, did not discover its substratum to be the rope? No one. In the same manner an indirect knowledge should be gained by sravana that the five sheaths are superimposed and unreal; but by a keen intellect the seeker must probe deep into this superficial knowledge and experience the truth of it; just as the directly experienced gross body is clearly known to be built up by food and recognised to be only the food-sheath covering the Self, so also the other four subtler sheaths remaining unknown to the common people but taught by the scriptures and the master must be known by their characteristics; they must be enquired into and directly experienced; at the same time they must be recognised to be only sheaths and successively dismissed in order to seek their witness, Consciousness-Being or the subtle Self.
20. D.: If the Self is enquired into, after investigation and dismissing these sheaths, how can It be realised?
M.: This enquiry is but reflecting on the Self i.e., manana, its effect is to destroy the veil of Ignorance. A constant reflection on the Self lying behind the sheaths must burn away that aspect of veiling which makes one say ‘It does not shine forth’.
D.: How can this be?
M.: Just as an enquiry into the rope-snake that obstructs the rope from view, destroys the ignorance of the rope, so also a keen quest of the Self that remains as the witness of the five sheaths, destroys the ignorance which supposes that the Self is not seen and that It does not shine forth. On the clouds being scattered away as the sun shines forth in its full glory, so also the darkness of veiling being destroyed the witnessing Self will shine forth in all Its splendour. Therefore enquiry is necessary.
21. D.: How long should one continue to enquire into the Self?
M.: Non-recrudescence of the darkness of Ignorance is said to be the “limit” of reflection. Therefore one should continue the practice until this darkness of Ignorance does not recur.
22-24. D.: Can the veiling once removed, return again?
M.: Yes. So long as doubts arise, this Ignorance must be inferred to exist.
D.: How can there be any doubt left after the Self has been realised?
M.: On enquiring into the sheaths and dismissing them as unreal, the Self, their witnessing consciousness is realised to be unique, finer than ether, even like void. Now that the sheaths have been dismissed as unreal and there is nothing but the void- like subtle Self, a fear may arise that one is left as nothing or void.
D.: How can it be?
M.: Transcending all, the Self has nothing in common with worldly things or activities; It transcends the void also; hence the experience is unique and unearthly. A fear may then arise “Can this be the Self? It cannot be — Should this be the Self, how can I be such a void?” Even after realising the impartite Self, there is no confidence in one’s own experience; it is regarded as impossible and a great doubt arises. The sense of impossibility gives rise to doubt. But repeated reflection removes this sense of impossibility. So it is said by Vyasa in the Brahma Sutras: Aav<i]a Ask<dupde=at. On account of the repeated instruction (by the scriptures), (it is) necessary repeatedly (to hear of, reflect and meditate on the Self ).
25. D.: What is the “fruit” of such reflection?
M.: By continued practice, the veiling is destroyed; with its destruction, the sense of impossibility of the Self shining forth all alone disappears; with its disappearance all obstacles are at an end and then direct experience results as clearly and surely as an apple in the palm of your hand. This is the “fruit”.
26. D.: What is this direct experience?
M.: Just as one can clearly distinguish the sun from the cloud hiding it, so also when one can distinguish the Self from the ego, it is direct experience. This is the ‘fruit’ of reflection.
27. My son! wise boy! Reflection has now been taught in detail. It is for you to enquire into the five sheaths, dismiss them as unreal, then with keen intellect turn inwards to find the very subtle Self and recognise it distinctively.
28. D.: O Master! even on a keen enquiry I am unable to say “These are the five sheaths; this is the inmost Self as distinguished from them”. I cannot directly realise the Self. Why is it so?
M.: This is owing to beginningless Ignorance.
D.: How did this Ignorance arise? M.: From the aforesaid veiling.
M.: Although by nature the Self and the ego are quite different from each other, the aforesaid veiling presents them as if they were identical.
D.: Please explain this.
M.: See, how though rope and a snake are quite different
from each other, yet ignorance of the rope makes it appear a snake, so also the Self being hidden by the darkness of veiling does not shine forth and in its place only the functions of the ego, doership etc., are seen.
29-31. Therefore enquire into the nature of the five sheaths, find them, realise them, and then reject them as non-self. There must be the unchanging witness of changes, originating and destroying these phenomena. Find and realise Him as the Self.
D.: Distinct from all the phenomena, where can the witness be?
M.: There is the triad composed of the knower, knowledge, and the known. Of these, the knower is the subject; knowledge is the intellect; and the known the objects. This triad arises and flourishes in the waking and dream states and merges in the insentience of the deep sleep state. That which, remaining as the sole unchanging consciousness, illuminates and causes the appearance of all these three states, is the witnessing Self. Discern it and realise it.
32. D.: When according to your instructions, I enquire into the five sheaths and reject them as being non-self, I do not find anything left but simple void. Where then is the Self?
33-35. M.: To say that there is nothing left behind the five sheaths, is like saying “I have no tongue to speak”.
D.: How so?
M.: Unless one has a tongue one cannot say that one has no tongue to speak with. Similarly unless there is the seer of the void one cannot say there was nothing left. Otherwise one can not say anything. On the contrary since the speaker says that nothing is seen, it is obvious that the Self remains there revealing nothing besides Itself.
D.: If so, how can It remain unknown?
M.: The Self sees all but is seen by none else. Being Self-shining It can without any aids know things but there is nothing which can know It. It knows all; It knows that there is nothing; It is the inmost core of all; It remains as the pure, untainted, Ether of Consciousness unseen by anything. It remains undivided. The knower of all, the Pure Knowledge, is the Self.
36-43. D.: How does the Self remain unknown by anything, yet knowing all?
M.: The sheaths appear as existing. When they are rejected, their absence appears as a blank or nothing. The sheaths, the blank and all else that appears are but insentient and cannot of their own accord show themselves forth but must be seen by a seer. In the absence of the seer, nothing can be seen.
D.: How so?
M.: Objects like a pot etc., manifest only to a seer; otherwise they do not exist. In the same manner, the void beyond the five sheaths manifests because there is the seer. Unless there is the witness, how can the void appear as though nothing were seen? Not being conscious but only insentient, it cannot show itself forth unless the witness sees and recognises it.
D.: Though insentient it can manifest itself.
M.: In that case let objects like a pot etc., show themselves forth, in the absence of their seer. This is impossible. The void appearing as nothing is also insentient and therefore cannot shine forth by itself. It must be illumined by a light beyond and witnessed by it.
M.: Just as clouds etc. above or objects like a pot etc. below, are not self-luminous but must be illumined by the sun which lies millions of miles beyond and is self-effulgent, so also the void etc. beyond the intellect and objects fancied by it, are insentient and non-luminous but must be illumined by the transcendent, self-shining Consciousness. Beyond the void and distinct from it, there is the witness seeing the void and all else. He is the Self unknown by anything, yet knowing all. By your intellect made subtle, find and realise the Self.
44-45. On the nature of the Self being thus made clear by the Master’s words, like an apple in one’s hand, the disciple was able directly to realise the Self. He then expressed his joy thus: “O Master, I have directly experienced the Self! I have now known It well!”
M.: How do you find the Self to be?
D.: Witness of all objects, void etc., knowledge, aware of all, very majestic, inestimable, unfathomable, beyond the senses, mind, intellect etc., unassociated, untainted, formless, not gross, not subtle, not atomic, not massive, not white nor black nor otherwise coloured, not dark nor bright but finer and purer than ether, is the Self. Not the least trace of any change is to be found there. Owing to the light of Consciousness, all changing objects and the void appear outside intellect and far from it; the Self has no modification.
M.: How then do the notions “I am fat — I am lean” appear in the Self?
D.: The veiling factor of Ignorance hides the true nature of the Self from all; without seeing the Self, all mistake the sheaths for the Self. This is owing to Ignorance only. In fact there is no modification in the Self. Though pure and colourless, the sky seems blue; similarly Ignorance makes the Self look as if changing whereas It remains only unchanging and untainted.
Here and now It is clearly known; It can never be absent. O, is it not a wonder that though ever so immediate and real, there should have been this great illusion that the Self is not seen! It is like the owl seeing nothing but darkness round it in the dazzling light of the Sun! O! the Self is effulgent and manifest! Yet an illusion spread a darkness over us to make us feel “The Self is not seen!” Really it is a wonder! Can there be darkness in midday? Before the ever-bright, ever-manifest Supreme Self, can there remain any veiling? Whence can it arise? How can one even think of It? Surely veiling is itself an illusion; it is a mere word; there is no sense in it!
M.: If there is no veiling how did the Self lie hidden so long?
D.: Though unreal, this Ignorance flourished on the non- enquiry of the individual. Just as one’s non-enquiry hides the rope from view and presents it as a snake, so also non-enquiry into the Self hides It from being seen and this is called the veiling aspect of beginningless Ignorance. Now that the Self is realised, the so-called veiling is nowhere to be seen. Lo, the Self is here and now found to be the ever-shining witness! Wonder of Wonders! Like an apple in my hand I have now clearly realised the Self. Now Lord, Master, fortunately by your grace I am blessed; my task is finished!
46-50. On hearing the happy words of the blessed disciple, the master is pleased and speaks as follows: “Wise, worthy son, by God’s Grace you have realised what one must realise! By His Grace your ignorance has ended by which even the learned unable to realise the Self, remain deluded. Happily you have got what is denied even to great scholars! Jointly all the merits of your past births have this day borne fruit! What can be the excellence of your merits that they have borne this fruit? Blessed are you! Ended is your task. You are an accomplished man. How wonderful that you have gained that which must be gained above all! In order to gain this, all the great works, vows, austerities, worship, yoga and other laborious tasks are undertaken; and only to know it all the trouble and worry of these processes is gone through. All your travail is now over. All the labour of your past births has this day borne fruit. Only in ignorance of this Supreme Thing all people lie sunk in the fathomless sea of repeated births and deaths. You have reached the shore beyond this sea. In ignorance of this all men mistake the body, senses etc., for the Self. You have found this Self.
Therefore you are really wise, truly intelligent. There can be no doubt of this.
So far you have really quested and realised the significance of “thou” in the text ‘That thou art’. On the same lines pursue your enquiry and realise the significance of ‘That’ in the text.”
51-52. D.: Please tell me, Master, the direct and intended meanings of ‘That’, just as for ‘thou’ they are the sheaths and the witness respectively.
M.: The whole universe is composed of the five factors — Being-shining-pleasing-name and form, the five sheaths and the external objects like a pot etc.
D.: Please explain the five factors of the external objects. M.: That a pot is, is its ‘being’ aspect; that it appears, is its ‘shining’ aspect; that is dear to us, is its ‘pleasing’ aspect; ‘pot’ is its ‘name’ aspect; and its shape, its ‘form’ aspect. So it is with all objects. Of the five factors, the first three are characteristic of Brahman, and the remaining two, of the world.
The direct meaning of That is the world factors, i.e. names and forms; the intended meaning is Brahman — the composite of Being-shining-pleasing. Just as the beginningless Ignorance veils the self-evident difference between the sheaths and their witness, so also it veils the similar difference between the Being- shining-pleasing and the ‘name and form’ factors. Again as enquiry scatters away the veiling power, the Being-Knowledge- Bliss can be seen distinct from the ‘name and form’ aspect.
53-54. D.: What is the ‘fruit’ of knowing the direct and intended meanings of ‘That’ and ‘Thou’ in the text, ‘That thou art.’
M.: The text speaks of the sameness of ‘thou’ the witness of the five sheaths and of ‘That’ i.e., Brahman or Being- Knowledge-Bliss lying beyond the names and forms in the universe. These are the intended meanings of ‘thou’ and ‘That’. There can be no identity between the five sheaths of the individual, the direct meaning of ‘thou’ and the names and orms in the universe, the direct meaning of ‘That’. Hence it follows that the five sheaths and the names and forms are only illusory. To know the witness and Brahman to be one is the ‘fruit’ of knowledge.
D.: How can these be one and the same?
M.: Being only Being-Knowledge-Bliss, both of them must be the same. Just as the ether in a pot and that in the open have the same characteristics and are therefore identical, so also the witness and Brahman having the same characteristics, namely Being-Knowledge and Bliss, are one and the same. The ether of the pot is that of the open and vice versa; so also the witness is Brahman, and Brahman is the witness.
55-56. Inasmuch as Brahman is impartite perfect Wholeness, the witness being Brahman must also be impartite, perfect Wholeness. Therefore it is established that the Self is One unbroken Bliss.
D.: What is the ‘fruit’ of this knowledge?
M.: To reject the five sheaths and names and forms of objects as something inexpressible, only superimposed on the Reality, illusory to practise that the substratum, i.e., Brahman of Being-Knowledge-Bliss is the Self and to realise It as ‘I am Brahman’ with the resulting Supreme Bliss of being the Brahman, is the ‘fruit’ of this knowledge. Here ends the chapter on Reflection.
57. The wise student who carefully reads and practises it can realise himself as Brahman i.e., Being-Knowledge-Bliss.