Radiant Immortal Atman! Blessed seekers, sadhaks! Vedanta should be properly received, properly taken in, to be digested. If food is not thoroughly chewed in the mouth, it does not get properly digested in the stomach and intestines. In spite of eating the best of food, one’s health remains unsatisfactory. One feels something is wrong and looks for a cause outside—“perhaps the food is not properly cooked.” But the cause is inside, because one has not received it properly, one has not thoroughly chewed it. It is the same if Vedantic teaching is not properly received.
All of you are sadhaks, bhaktas, Vedantins; you know the scriptures. You are all familiar with the three steps of Vedantic sadhana, the path of knowledge: sravana, manana and nididhyasana (hearing, reflection and deep meditation). Systematic manana is done by no one; it is not done by anyone. Sravana is done, but that also not with a concentrated mind. No systematic manana is practised as a sadhana, whereas it is one of the three fundamental sadhanas of the Vedanta—sravana sadhana, manana sadhana and nididhyasana sadhana.
If we listen to Vedanta, soon afterwards we get the feeling that we are brahma-jnanis; we get the feeling that we are well versed in Vedanta. And it is in developing this feeling that your ajnana (ignorance) has succeeded in deceiving you. Maya has attained victory. For this is the worst type of ignorance, and it means that the more you get the superficial outer knowledge, apara vidya, book knowledge, the deeper becomes your pride and the deeper becomes your delusion. You think you are a jnani, and thus your pride grows, your delusion increases, which means you have gone deeper into the darkness of ignorance.
So it is not jnana that has increased. Actually, seemingly it is jnana, because you are able to deliver lectures, you are able to answer questions. You are able to say “I know” and enter into arguments and discussions with learned pundits. You put very intricate, clever questions to senior mahatmas to test their knowledge and to display how well you are versed in Vedanta. This display makes one vain and pride is increased, which means you have gone deeper into the darkness of ignorance and bondage. This is a very great hazard upon the spiritual path.
Therefore, we should know how to listen with sincerity, with humility, with purity, with a sattvic attitude—“I do not know, pray enlighten me, I wish to know.” Jijnasa means humility—“I do not know.” Look at the attitude of Arjuna after initially arguing, discussing, debating and trying to show off his knowledge. He eats humble pie: “Please, I do not know what to do; please show me the way, tell me.” It is the beginning of wisdom.
Thus you must be very careful when proceeding upon the path of sravana, manana and nididhyasana. When you do sravana (hearing) you must do it in a proper way. Then only your manana (reflection) will yield. But the vast majority of Vedantic students do sravana and then want to do nididhyasana, attain nirvikalpa samadhi, brahma-jnana. Manana is easily bypassed. Very few people do manana, very few people do sravana in the right and proper manner, and therefore their knowledge becomes their great stumbling block. They go into greater darkness.
This is said because statements like sarvam khalvidam brahma (all this is verily Brahman) are so easily misunderstood. “Everything is only Brahman so why should I unnecessarily control my senses? Why should I avoid things—‘one should neither avoid things nor cultivate things.’ ” Also, nigrahah kim karishyati (What can restraint do?)—that sentence from the Gita becomes the downfall of many aspirants. They justify their lack of self-restraint, lack of samyam, their subordination to sense appetites and desires under the guise of sruti, the teachings of the great ones.
Brandy also is Bhagavan’s. But then we know that Bhagavan’s anirvachaniya sakti (inexplicable power) is itself maya. And through maya He Himself has manifested as things that are conducive and favourable to your spiritual growth and illumination, as well as conditions and manifestations that are adverse and unfavourable to your spiritual growth. So you must know how to discriminate between this manifestation of Brahman and that manifestation of Brahman, even though all are Brahman. There are certain manifestations of Brahman that are to be accepted and cultivated; there are certain manifestations of Brahman that are to be carefully avoided even though knowing that they are Brahman.
How you should do it is something quite up to you. It depends upon how much manana you have done. How can one accept one aspect of Brahman and reject another aspect? In this world it is necessary, and the scriptures are full of both injunctions of nishedha (prohibited actions) as well as injunctions for that which is grahya—fit to be accepted. They make no mystery of it; they speak very plainly.
What more could you ask than the very clear, unambiguous, categorical exposition of these two vibhagas (divisions) than the “Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonical” given by Lord Krishna Himself in the sixteenth chapter of the Gita. He who said nigrahah kim karishyati (What can restraint do?) has also given the “Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas” in chapter fourteen as well as the “Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonical” and tells us very plainly: “daivi sampad vimokshaya (divine nature is for liberation).”
So you must know how to understand a thing with reference to its context. If He has said nigrahah kim karishyati and if He has given you the sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, how do you relate these things, how to understand? Both are valued, and therefore you must understand the implication of nigrahah kim karishyati. You must be very, very clear about your attitude towards manifest Brahman.
Brahman in the unmanifest state is our deity, our object, our principle to be worshipped and also our goal for attainment. But Brahman in manifestation through maya has to be related to in different ways. Brahman’s manifestation as maya is indescribable; it cannot be defined. This has to be understood. And this manifestation has given Herself as vidya maya as well as avidya maya. As vidya maya, Brahman is manifest through maya as divine nature. As avidya maya, Brahman is manifest through prakriti as demonical nature. These things have to be pondered, not blindly taken in. Manana has to be done.
You must understand the implication and application of Vedantic teachings and what the Guru says—what exactly it implies. If you think over it, deeply reflect over it a hundred times, then you will be able to assimilate it. Then only Vedantic indigestion will not ensue. You will not haphazardly do something somewhere and then suffer in spite of your so-called knowledge. Therefore, avidya maya should be understood; vidya maya should also be understood. And our attitude of grahana and nigraha (accepting and restraint) should also be well defined in relationship to these two as we move about in this world.
Also, it depends upon application. A knife is there. It is amoral, it is inert, it is neutral. If you grasp it by the handle, you are safe. If you grasp it by the blade, you are not safe. So the knife has no part in the result; it is the way you handle it. In the same way the world is full of maya, and even if you are surrounded by avidya maya, if you know how to handle it, then you are safe.
So, yogah karmasu kausalam (Yoga is skill in action). You have to know in what way you should relate yourself and how to handle maya, how to be aware of both of Her aspects and in spite of that not to forget Brahman. You have to know how to always be in a brahmakara vritti (thought of Brahman alone) and at the same time see all the differences, experiencing the oneness, see all the differences. You must be able to relate yourself to things upon the basis of these differences seen, because in this worldly existence one should be wise, be skilled. These are ideas I put before you for your manana, for your calm, deep reflection, viveka (discrimination), vichara (enquiry). “What could this meaning be? If I take it to be thus...no, it contradicts some other thing. Therefore, it cannot be that. If I take it to be this wise...no, ii cannot be applied, it does not bring out the full meaning.” Thus you have to think with viveka and vichara, comparing it with other statements in the scriptures.
Therefore, every step should be done with manana; manana should be a systematic sadhana. And you must know how to relate yourself to Brahman in Its unmanifest state and Brahman manifest through maya as vidya as well as avidya. And these things should always be in our consciousness as we are moving about and dealing with the world. They should not be absent from our consciousness. Then only Vedanta can also be vyavahara Vedanta, and thus we can keep our sadhana always progressive and upward, and not get into folly and complications, not commit blunders through delusion.
God bless you to rightly receive higher teachings. God bless you with the ability to reflect deeply, do manana of received teachings. And God bless you to have the intelligence to know how to apply these received truths in your daily life and gradually, steadily progress towards brahma-jnana and liberation. God bless you! Gurudev’s grace be upon you!
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