Self Enquiry - By Dr. Sandhya Ravi
Sri Gurubhyo Namaha :
This is an upanishadic mantra which talks about self enquiry or atma vichara
Just as we need a mirror to see ourselves we need a mirror for atma vichara – and sashtram is this mirror or darpanam
Sashtra vichara happens through Sravanam and mananam and in this verse it is explained through an analogy
Many things like shristi, panchakoshas and avastatraya are discussed in the Upanishads , but we need to extract the central message of the teaching – this is called tatparya nirnaya , using lingani or clues – so that’s how the central message of Tat Tvam Asi and Aham Brahmasi is extracted .
Extracting this is not easy – we need the help of the sashtric mirror and a guru or acharya to understand this . The process of vichara happens through sravanam and mananam
The analogy of Arani mathanam is used to explain this.
Arani mathanam is a process of generating fire for a vedic ritual.
2 blocks of wood are used here- the lower block is Adho Arani made of ashvatha Vriksha
This has a small scooped out portion in the centre .
Into this portion fits another rod of wood called the Uttara arani ( made form sami vriksha )
The yajamana or priest churns this rod using a rope . Friction creates sparks, this is caught on dry grass or coconut fiber and transferred to a huma kund.
This is the fire that receives oblations.
Arani mathanam is likened to Vedanta vichara.
Āthmanam aranim krutva
The lower arani is the qualified, steady, unwavering mind od the pupil .It does not move – just as the student’s mind needs to be focused
Pranavam Cha Uttara arinam
The churning rod is the omkara mantra or pranava. Churning is the Vichara or enquiry into Brahman. The person doing the churning is the Guru
The Omkara mantra – A, U, M is equated to the Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti avastas- i.e the Virat Vishva, Hinranyagarbha Taijasa and the Iswara Pragnya. In the process of sravanam and mananam one has to disidentify from these 3 states and then become the avastatraya sakshi .
Any upanishadic mantra can be used as the churning rod
Repetition is important aspect of shravanam . It can only be facilitated by a guru and the sishya must have a stable, sthira, available mind.
Jnanam Nirmathanam abhyasat
Nirmathanam is churning – this helps to analyse the Mahavakya. – separating the Vachuyartha from the lakshyartha - literal from the intended
ex : Tata tavam asi - understanding the tvam is pure consciousness and Tat ids pure existence or paramatma and asi is the aikyam or oneness of both
so, it’s a long process, this nirmathanam and only with abhyasa or practice and repetition can the spark of knowledge be kindled.
Sravanam sparks knowledge and it’s a feeble flame at best. Its upto the sishya to carefully protect and nurture this to a conflagration – through mananam and thereafter it becomes a forest fire in nidhidhyasanam
Guru plays a prominent role in shravanam , a limited role in mananam .
In nidhidhyasanam the sishya is on his own.
And such a person who gets established in this knowledge is a
jnana nishta or panditah
( jnana nishta, gunathitha, para bhaktaha, sthithapragnya)
Such a panditah burns all that is binding in the fire of knowledge –
The pasha or bandage – avidya, ahankara, mamakara, kartrtvam, bhoktrtvam, karmas, the very triangular format
2 ideas are conveyed through this example
1) Fire is produced by mathanam or churning and knowledge comes from sashtra vichara
2) Fire burns all our fuel and knowledge burns all our bondage
Self knowledge is compared to fire- just as the fire has the ability to both illumine and destroy, Brahmavidya or self knowledge burns the samsara and illumines Brahman .