Teachings by Shri Dada: On the World, the Soul, God, Self and Knowledge
Shri Dada had hardly been six months at the Ramganga Bridge before the influence of malaria was evident, but despite frequent attacks of ague he carried on his worldly and spiritual duties.
A party of sannyasins led by Swami Rameshvarananda Bharati was staying at this time at Katgarh for a few days and used to pass their time in study and devotion at the Ramganga Bridge. Each day Shri Dada sent several gallons of fresh milk boiled and sweetened to these learned monks, many of whom had received advanced training in the Vedanta Sutras according to the non-dualist commentary of Shri Shankaracharya.
One day the Bharati Swami, learning that Shri Dada was a pupil of Paramahansa Krishnananda Saraswati, asked his disciples to attend the daily devotions of Shri Dada and listen to his discourses. On one occasion one of them asked: “What is jagat? What is jiva? What is Ishvara? What is Atman?” [‘Jagat’ means the phenomenal world of change we experience. ‘Jiva’ is the self-conscious individual. ‘Ishvara’ is a name for God or the Absolute in the aspect of sustainer and illuminator of the world. ‘Atman’ means self.]
Shri Dada said: “Holy men, you are learned and pious, and more competent to teach than I. Still, as you have asked me, I convey to you what I have heard from my Guru.
Atman is really Paramatman, who may be described as the only Reality and as Sat-Chit-Ananda [being, consciousness, bliss absolute]. Having allowed, as it were, rays of Himself to be overcome by His great power called maya, He imagines Himself to be conditioned by egoity. You may have heard of the Mogul princesses who used to fall in love with their reflections in the mirror. The same applies to Paramatman who, looking at His reflection in the mirror of egoity, believes Himself to be a jiva endowed with only limited knowledge and happiness. But, holy monks, eternal bliss is the nature of Paramatman and temporary forgetfulness does not and cannot in reality effect a negation of His true Nature. Remember that maya has no absolute reality. It is an illusion and its product, antahkarana [mind], merely an imagined entity.
Maya is sometimes static and sometimes dynamic and so is the antahkarana. It assumes, in its dynamic state, the phases called waking and dreaming; when it becomes static it is called the state of dreamless sleep. I remind you to note, holy ones, that Paramatman is not subject to change or modification, and in jiva He is merely the ‘witness’ of various changes without being affected by them. An objector might ask: ‘Why has the Absolute allowed Himself to be conditioned? No king would like to be a beggar; no lion would see himself as a hyena’. Holy ones, the question is based on a misunderstanding. No change has taken place in Paramatman, for never is He subject to any change. Changes take place in maya which is unreal, and Paramatman is only the witness. Holy ones, the sun shines on a stagnant pool and also on the golden palaces of the Moguls; but it is neither soiled by the muddy waters nor is its appearance enriched by the gold. It is merely the witness of both.
Ishvara is the name for Paramatman as the omniscient Lord of maya who manipulates the imaginary plastic stuff called prakriti into dreamlike universes. Heaven and hell, logs and iron, rivers, kings, beggars, sinners, saints, are all, as it were, imaginary guises put on by the Lord. Time and space, reason, intellect and its logical investigations of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of everything are all masks of the Lord.
Jagat is inadequate knowledge of the Lord’s nature, and is the gross form of avidya [want of true knowledge]; it is forgetfulness of the All-Highest. Holy ones, being and becoming are Jagat and details of the dream called maya. As poison is an antidote to poison and as iron cuts iron, so also is this illusion dispelled by teachings which are themselves only part of the dream. Service of the Teacher, compassion for all living beings and devotion to the Lord can turn our bewitched gaze from this long, meaningless, imaginary manuscript of successive tragedies and comedies, called maya. You know it all. I have not read any books because I do not know the holy language; but my Guru has enabled me to see in my heart what the classics contain. Isha, jagat and jiva are three aspects—not modifications—of the One Immutable Consciousness called Brahman. The One appears as three when seen through the coloured glasses of maya. In fact there is neither one nor three; and the truth has to be experienced, not merely to be talked about. Holy ones, the intellect will never understand it fully: only by the grace of the Lord may the riddle be solved. Om Tat Sat.”
At first the monks were silent like figures painted on canvas, merged in samadhi. Then they looked at one another in great wonder saying: “Shankara himself has spoken through the Pundit. Jai to him!” Shri Dada offered salutations to them in return and entertained them with the following song:
I am the moon that sails in the heavens;
Unconcerned, detached, I pour on the world my silvery rays;
I see babes in their cradles, and flowers asleep;
I see and pass on.
I see lovers locked in each others arms;
On the marble floors the sick are turning in agony;
I see and pass on.
I see flowers, and snakes gliding beneath them;
I see lions leaping and roaring;
I see Pundits praying, Rishis meditating and thieves stealing;
I see and yet pass on and on.
* * * * *
The next day when the holy man went to see the Bharati Swami, he was received with great respect by the monk and his disciples. Shri Dada presented a few ripe melons to the party and jars of almond drink, sugared and cooled, which they all shared with visible gratefulness: then the Bharati Swami said: “Now Punditji, please also give your children a drink of the nectar of pure knowledge. You have charmed them with the teachings you gave yesterday.” A chorus of ‘Jai’ greeted his words and Shri Dada, bowing down to them before taking his seat on a large boulder, spoke thus:
“Devotees of a perfect Guru, let us consider what Jnana [true knowledge, converse of avidya] is. It is the normal state, so to speak, of Atman, to which Atman ‘reverts’ from its present condition of being apparently bound in the illusory phenomenal existence. This state is often preceded by an intellectual knowledge of what Atman is not. The word ‘Jnana’ means ‘knowledge’, but this ‘knowledge’ is not ‘knowledge of something’ but is quite different from conceptual or perceptual knowledge. Holy ones, it is that which makes knower, knowing and known possible, but which is not related either to the subject or to the object. There is another aspect of it called samadhi, a word describing the state in which there is freedom from all instruments of knowledge. It sounds a complicated thesis, but the author of Vira Vijaya sums it up in the words: ‘It is Atman’. As many waves abide in water, so the instruments of cognition and cognition itself abide in this attributeless Atman.
Jnana is the negation of all duality and individuality. It is that ocean of consciousness in which, by the action of the wind of maya, waves appear and disappear. Holy ones, it is not to be striven after; it is not an achievement. Those who try to achieve it are in error, for it is not an object. Indeed Jnana includes within itself the postulates of subject and object, of existence and non-existence. It is Self because you cannot imagine the absence of it: the imaginer is logically prior to the act of imagining.
Holy ones, forget the world, time, space, sin, sorrow, God, man, all effects and causes. Then, that which remains and which you cannot forget, is Atman, is Jnana. All that is changing or mortal can be forgotten, but the immortal Paramatman is ever abiding. The darlings of their Guru realise this truth without effort. Once I was shown a picture in black and white representing a landscape with thick woods, at the corner of which was the figure of a man. Under the picture was written: ‘The shepherd has lost one of his sheep, please help him to find it’. The sheep was nowhere to be seen, since it was not painted in ink, but its shape was concealed in the place where the white canvas was enclosed by branches of the painted trees and the grass. Once seen it was never forgotten. So, holy ones, do not look for Brahman in limitations; look to the canvas—Chaitanya— and there you will find the eternal flame of Atman. The Guru cannot describe it to you, but he can point it out to you by such statements as: ‘Tat Tvam Asi’.”