Athma Bodha (Knowledge of The Self) – Part 2.   Prayer Song and the questions that arise.

Adi Sankara Cover

Following are the three verses of the Morning Prayer song composed by Swami Adi Sankaracharya:

In the early morning I meditate (smarami) on the Self, residing in the deep wells of our hearts. It is Real Knowledge, Eternal Happiness, the state reached by those who have transcended to the fourth state of consciousness; Self illumines all our experiences during the waking, dreaming and the state of deep sleep. I am that perfect Brahman, not the identity associated merely with my physical and identifiable matter.

In the Early Morning I salute (namaami) and show my respect to that Self, the Brahman that adds glory to the Mind and the Speech; through His grace all Speech comes alive or shines through; Who is Identified in the scriptures by relentless exploration by rejecting all else (“Na iti, Na iti – Not this, not this”). Brahman cannot be adequately expressed by Words; Brahman is called the God of the Gods, Unborn, Infallible (i.e. Imperishable) and Foremost (i.e. Primordial).

In the early morning I worship or praise the glory (bhajami) of the Self, the stable framework whose nature is Supreme Illumination, whole or the entirety, with Its presence earlier than the beginning, and Which is called the Supreme Soul; In whom this endless world is seated from time immemorial and in which this cognitive world appears illusive like a fearsome snake even if it is a Rope.

The prayer song raises the following questions:

  • Why is the knowledge of the self the Real Knowledge?

The in cognitive forces of nature (Brahman) enable all that we know, aware of, do, engage in, etc. In other words the life and the world or the universe as we know of it is all enabled by Brahman. If we divorce ourselves of the thought that I am Brahman, the Universe is Brahman then it is like acknowledging a coin with one side only. Such coin does not exist or cannot be conceived of. It is also like being in a boat on the land (without buoyancy) and wanting to float. It does not exist. Brahman (the laws of nature that enable everything) and its inseparable presence in my existence is “Who I am” or the knowledge of the self – the true knowledge! All other “knowledge” is enabled or springs forth from this foundational knowledge.

  • How does it lead to Eternal Happiness?

Much to the surprise of many, happiness is not one sided, all or nothing! True happiness is finding the balance between two competing forces. Let us return to our analogy of the person in the boat, floating in the lake. The boat cannot continue to be steady and continue its journey unless the forces are balanced on either side of the boat. It is equally true for the journey of life. While the duality or competing forces of nature (joy vs. sorrow, like vs. dislike, etc.) are eternal, their impact can become lopsided unless there is a consistent effort to balance them. But even that balancing act (Sagunathvam) will be a struggle and in the end futile unless our mind shifts to the invisible laws of nature at work. In other words conscious awareness of the Cognitive and in-cognitive aspects of the self (both sides of the coin) is the true source of eternal or long lasting happiness.

For example one can strive to be the strongest, smartest or well accomplished in any field. But there should also be a desire to manage these desires and not become overwhelmed by vanity, greed or such driving forces in our pursuit. This balancing act is Sagunathvam. At the pinnacle we reach a certain high level of accomplishment – the peak performance. All of these are based on one side of the coin – the cognitive side. At this stage the mind says, “Why not higher?” and immediately the mind shifts to comparison with others and the slippery slope of greed, vanity and unhappiness starts! This will be avoided only when we recognize the physical limitations – the laws of nature (Brahman) at work – in our own ability in this sphere of activity. Instead the mind recognizes such higher accomplishment by others consistent with their nature endowed abilities. Admiration of accomplishment of any one replaces admiration of our own accomplishment. Limitless and universal joy and happiness replaces limited happiness centered on our individual accomplishments and performances.

To illustrate this further let us look at another example: Once there was a street musician who rendered a devotional song in excellent music. A famous classical music singer heard that at her door step. She was truly mesmerized. At that moment she realized that music is universal and the capability to sing superbly need not be limited to only a few who are famous, well recognized and acclaimed. As she peaked into the in cognitive side of devotional music her joy knew no bounds. This is also extolled as “the sun that shines on the king and the poor man in the street is one and the same”

  • What is the fourth state of consciousness?

We can readily identify ourselves when we are awake. Our thoughts in this state are recognizable. In fact most of our life we struggle or try to manage our thoughts, the emotions they foster and the actions that we carry out as a result. We also know when we dream. We do have thoughts, but they may or may not have structure to them. Dreams often disappear and we fail to recall our thoughts. Then there is a state of deep sleep where no thoughts of any kind are recognized.

But we are alive in all these three states. That is the fourth state – the state which is enabled by our life giving forces, the laws of nature (Brahman). We merely exist enabled by and as a witness to the laws of nature at work (Brahman) in this fourth state of Consciousness. This is the in-cognitive side of our coin that permeates or co-exists with all the other three states which belong to the Cognitive side of the coin.

  • Brahman illumines all our experiences during the waking, dreaming and the state of deep sleep. If I am that perfect Brahman, why do I associate my identity merely with my physical and identifiable matter?
  • Why does the world appear anxious, fearful and apprehensive like a fearsome snake even if it is a rope?

See section six in this series of essays.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s