Is Self-realization Open to All?
13 May 1999
Pranam. My prostrations to Ma, Naya Swamiji and pranams to others staying in the Ashram. I write this on the eve of your 66th birthday remembering you with pranams and as a tribute to you for the glorious mission that you have been carrying on for the humanity during the last four decades. I have no doubt that this mission will grow from strength to strength and bring benefits to all worthy people.
I take this opportunity to ask you some doubts about spirituality. It is a matter of common observation that, in all fields of human endeavour – be it sports, any profession, the arts or performances – among a very large number who take to the endeavour seriously, only a few achieve the excellence, while the majority do not go beyond mediocrity. This, despite all their will and regular practice over decades. In other words, a vast majority finds it difficult to rise to higher levels of achievement.
Swamiji, is there a similar kind of situation in spiritual practice also, wherein a seeker after decades of sadhana, progresses to only a certain level and then finds it difficult to rise to the summit of Self-realization?
Please accept, with my pranams, a small offering that I have enclosed. Seeking blessings and benedictions from You, Ma and Naya Swamiji,
I remain, your child, as ever,
1 Jun 1999
Dear and blessed G:
Harih Om Tat Sat. Your loving letter of 13th May, with the enclosed offering came in time. I accepted that offering heartily, as usual. The contents of your letter was in my mind all along. I wanted some time to reply.
1. Self-realization is the ultimate goal that Vedantic thinkers had set for themselves right from time immemorial. Initially it was all a question of praising the super-human powers in general and for a purpose in particular. Then it became a question of offering oblations in fire. This was followed by different types of meditation, upasanas. This part later grew into temple culture and other forms of worship.
Finally came the Upanishads, in which the call and style became all together different. Till then the emphasis was on doing. Now suddenly, it became knowing. On knowing what, is the important difference. Till then the goals were somewhere among invisible heights, and mostly to be reached after the death of the body here. Both in the goals set and in the question of actualizing them, there was a clear indefiniteness, uncertainty and lack of experiential validity.
But that suddenly and fully changed in the Upanishads. As against attaining a place and region in the universe, like heaven or Creator’s world, now the Upanishads addressed the mind and ego of man to drop all distant goals and different notions, and focus the mind on the self alone, which to begin with, is within the body.
This Self, declared the Upanishads, was not to be produced or reached. It is only to be perceived and realized. The difference is in knowing that the Self is not a sadhya vastu (something to be attained); instead it is a siddha vastu (already present, now itself). The same is the Truth about God, God being just a synonym of the Self. If the goal is siddha, it just has to be to known and realized as such. Thus the Upanishadic sadhana became one of knowing and realizing.
Later, this pre-requisite for the Upanishadic sadhana became more identified and laid down. Thus Sankara came up with the insight that the qualification or ripeness for the Upanishadic sadhana, realization, is the sadhana-catushtaya. It starts with viveka, distinguishing between what is real and what is not, grows through vairagya (dispassion), and ends up with mumuksutva (aspiration for liberation). Whoever has these requisites can do sadhana for Self-realization. The first attempt must be to cultivate these four, if they are lacking.
While stipulating saadhana-catushtaaya, it is quite clear that these items are either present in one, by birth or growth, or they are cultivable. As in any other field of knowledge or practice, some have the aptitude or susceptibility and some do not. Even if the aptitude is not there, a good seeker can cultivate them. Either the effort has to be more, or he must be in the company of the Wise.
While all other subjects are alien to man, this one subject of the Self is not. The distance to the Self is zero for one and all. Naturally, getting access to it must be equally easy or difficult for all.
2. The moment we bring Self-realization as a subject common for all, the question of whether everyone can take to it or not falls to the ground. In fact, of all the goals conceivable for the human life, religious or spiritual or even secular, this is the only one ultimately useful, and fully common and equal to all. Of the many distinctions, the Self and Wisdom have, this is the most pronounced – that these are available to one and all and in equal measure too!
3. It is to emphasize this aspect of Self-realization that sadhana- catushtaya and sadhana details got evolved and presented.
4. In the Geeta, which discusses the subject in a very novel and thorough manner, Krishna emphasizes that this knowledge was known to many Kings, and that in passage of time this got dislodged from the lineage. He re-instituted the same treasure in Arjuna, because Arjuna had distanced himself from it.
5. In more than one place, Krishna points out that many people have followed the path and have attained his state. “Madbhavam agatah”, are his words. “Mama sadharmyam agatah”, again. Even if one attains it at the end of his life, says he, then also one attains the Brahma-nirvana: “Sthitvasyam anta kalepi brahma nirvanam-rccati”.
6. With these statements, is it not clear that the need as well as the possibility of reaching Self-realization to the desirable degree is common for one and all? Again, the very purpose of sastras, which are thoroughly scientific and rational, is to offer the whole subject to everybody. Sastras have never stated that what they disclose or reveal is practicable to only a selected few.
It is true that some may have in-born qualities and fitness for a particular pursuit. For them, no special training may be necessary to begin the pursuit. Where this inborn quality is lacking, the fitness can be developed. Sastras have discussed the subject so well and so thoroughly that any seeker who wants to cultivate these can do so. In fact, herein lies the role of sastras – to facilitate anyone who so desires to take up this practice and perfect it.
7.Variety is the very expression of Nature. Without variety, the world cannot survive at all. Mankind is no exception. Like the variety in their bodily traits, the mental and intellectual traits too vary. Hence, the skill, efficiency, refinement, excellence and the like accessible to each may vary. But this is a general fact, nothing particular to spirituality.
That is how you find some Knowers eloquent, excellent and creative. But the knowledge, or Realization, which is truly experiential, is not constricted by any of these expressions and their variance. You may find a realizational Knower, who is an illiterate, another very literate. Realization consists in experiencing the Self, which is equally present in all. Experience of that Self will make one contented to the full. Expressions may be different, but the realizational fullness will be the same. In fact, the Self is meant to bestow this fullness to one and all.
8. Now, if you ask, who will seek this affluence of the Self, the answer is very clear. Who all wish and will to do so. Whether everyone will or not is left to him. Mostly people refuse to exercise their will and wish. Some do opt for the pursuit. Even among these seekers differences are mostly due to their own creation. Nature does not debar anyone, to any extent.
9. The height and length of legs and hands are generally different for people. With this difference, even if all people exert to the full capacity, the distance covered each time, with their gait and pace will be different for each. In the same manner, some differences are bound to be there in the degree of attainment, at least seemingly. This accounts for the difference in seekers, like the marks scored by the students in the same examination.
But even this statement is not true – because, Self-realization is meant to ensure fulfillment for one’s own self. It does not arise by dint of reaching somewhere or getting at something external, like a certain height of a peak in a mountain. The attainment is in dissolving the mind and intelligence, and getting into the very core of oneself.
In other words, it is like multiplying everything with zero. Cannot everyone do it – and with equal personal outcome? If one is not able to do it, it is due to the mind-intelligence differential – the differential in quality, like sincerity and resignation.
10. Only some Knowers are known well enough. Some alone have written books. And a few alone have been speaking and catering to people. The others have not. That is OK. Even a farmer, a trader, a fighter or a Brahman can be equally a Knower. To have become a Knower, does not mean that he should be a visible propangadist or a writer. Are there not many poets, or persons with poetic ability, who have not written anything known to the world at all? The trpti, fullness and fulfillment derived by all Knowers will be the same. That is what matters too.
As in other spheres, depending on time and circumstances, a Knower may become greatly known. The outer circumstances may make him so, rather than anything of his own. One became a Mahatma Gandhi, another became a Ramakrishna Dev or Vivekananda. Even now there are such people. But the circumstances may not be alike to make them known to many.
There is a measure of Providence in anything. The availability of Self-knowledge and the scope for excellences in it are never denied to anyone. It is not necessary that one has to become a Knower in the eyes of others. Knowledge fulfills the Knower. In that it is the same for all.
Here are some statements that confirm this truth:
Svalpam-apy-asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat (Bhagavadgita 2.40)
Jijnasur-api yogasya sabda brahmativartate (Bhagavadgita 6.44)
Jnanagni sarva karmani bhasmasat kurute (Bhagavadgita 4.37)
Sarvam jnana plavenaiva vrjinam santarisyasi (Bhagavadgita 4.36)
Srnvantu sarve amrtasya putrah
So avidya-granthim vikiratiha somya (Mundakopanishad 2.1.10)
Iha ced-avedit-atha satyam-asti (Kenopanishad 2.5)
Tam-atmastham ye anupasyanti dhirah tesam santih sasvati netaresam (Kathopanishad 2.5.13)
The degree of excellence does not matter. The degree of benefit each derives, of course does. And it can be adequate enough for all seekers. As I have said many times, ‘the possibility is there for all - the probability, I cannot say’. I think I have written enough for you to develop your answer.
The function on the 13th went off well. This time more people attended the occasion. It has begun to rain earlier this time. We are saved from the scorching sun of May.
Love and Sivasis,
Your own Antaratma
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