Question 106: Consciousness and the nature of illusion

the individual
What is the individual consciousness and how does it arise?

akhand unbroken, indivisible, uninterrupted;
anatma: unreal; opposite of Atma
anatma: different from the soul
anatma: not the spirit soul
Brahm-abhyas spiritual discipline; practice leading to realisation of Brahman
Brahm-satta the potency of Brahman
chitta: chitta San. noun. the mind (the seat of understanding and awareness, of intellect and will); memory, thought, reflection; the soul, heart. It is the individual consciousness, composed of intelligence and intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas). In Vedanta, chitta is one aspect of Universal Consciousness (chit). The world hangs on the thread of consciousness – without consciousness, there is no world.
tanmatras the five tanmatras are potential elements or generic essences of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. These are very subtle and cannot be ordinarily perceived.
vikara: fault, blemish;
vikara: Agitation of the mind; bad quality of the mind


Question 106: Sir, how does at jiva find its being in the pure Brahman which is known only through realisation (anubhava), and which is omniscient, all-pervasive, non-dual and self-independent?

Answer: Ramji, Brahman – the all-pervasive Pure Consciousness – is stainless like a mirror and absorbs reflections. Brahm-satta, the potency of Brahman, is manifested in two ways: one, with names and forms which is due to ignorance, and the other as the potency of the Formless Absolute that encompasses all planes, time and objects. It is due to the power of the Brahm-satta that the moon, sun, fire and wind operate within their respective laws. Brahman is beyond verbal description. Ideation is in the nature of Brahm-satta. The ego ( I ) ideated in the Pure Consciousness is the jiva.

Ramji, the ideation of ego-image in the mirror of consciousness is called jiva. Due to the oblivion of its primeval quiescent state, a jiva conceives of being a self; in reality, there is no distinction between jiva and Brahman. Depending upon different states, the jiva is ascribed various names such as chitta, jiva, mind, intelligence, ego, maya, prakriti, etc. As a result of these sankalpas of the jiva, the five subtle essences (tanmatras) are created, and with their powers a variegated universe is experienced. Just as a vast tree is created out of the seed-power, so is the vast universe created out of the seed of ideation. The primeval jiva aroused in Brahman is called Brahma.

This Brahma is established in Atma as an aspect of Atma. As is the ideation in Brahma, so is the manifestation of the universe. When a jiva forgets the true state and becomes oblivious of Atma and assumes to be a self (anatma), then he is engaged in actions (karma) with ego and is thus thrown into bondage. Sankalpa (ideation) is the seed of karma (action) and ideation arises only when there is oblivion of Atma. Ideation gives rise to imagination, and imagination to action (karma) and then karma leads to birth and other faults (vikara). As is the karma, so is the rebirth and the state — high or low — in life. It shows that Pure Brahman is the primeval cause of everything.

At first, the mind arose in Brahman and that (mind) created the illusory universe. The trio of seer-seeing-sight is a creation of the mind and not of Atma. But as mind is no entity and is unreal, how can the experiential world — a creation of mind — be real? If the mind were real, the world, too, would be real, because only the real can give rise to the real. But since the universe is transitory and destructible, it proves that the mind — the creator of the universe — is transitory and just an illusion.

Ramji, the world that is experienced as real, is a dream of a long spell and is conceived as real due to the ideation or modification (sankalpa) in the mind. All illusions disappear when the knowledge of Atma is attained. Atma is indivisible (akhand). When the knowledge (of Atma) is attained, the variegated universe becomes non-existent and only the Absolute – non-dual Atma – remains. Senses are created due to the ideation of ego in the chitta, body is a result of the senses, and actions that are the cause of bondage are the product of body. As a result, the ideations of hell-heaven and of liberation-bondage arise in an individual, but in reality nothing exists except Brahman. Just as one sun is seen as numerous reflections in numerous water pots, so also the universe is experienced in multifarious forms owing to the chitta-ideations. All illusions disappear on the dissolution of the individual consciousness (chitta).

O Ramji, you should therefore, try to check the chitta-ideations, so that the chitta is annihilated and you attain the supreme state. As long as the individual consciousness is directed outward and conceives the universe, tranquillity cannot be attained; but when abandoning all vasanas (tendencies or desires) it is directed inward and is stabilised in its own nature (Atma), then it is liberated.

Ramji, as soon as desire arises in you, annihilate it instantly. When you eradicate vasana in this manner and no desire arises in your individual consciousness, then you will attain liberation. Desire is the greatest obstacle to liberation. A wise man does not have to try much to abandon desire. Desires are easily removed when vichara (contemplation) and vivek (discrimination) are properly followed. Ignorance of Atma is bondage and knowledge of Atma is liberation. There is nothing else about liberation.


Sadhana is most required to control the mind and the desires after which it runs. If you find that you are not able to succeed, do not give up the Sadhana but do it more vigorously, for it is the subject in which you did not get passing marks that requires special study, doesn’t it? Sadhana means inner cleanliness as well as external cleanliness. You do not feel refreshed if you wear unwashed clothes after your bath, do you? Nor do you feel refreshed if you wear washed clothes, but skip the bath. Both are needed, the external as well as the internal. (1953)

Man comes into the world burdened with Maya and its instrument, the Mind. The Mind expresses itself through Attraction and Repulsion, Raga and Dwesha, Affection and Hatred, towards the external world. Raga is Rajasic in its effect; it can be used for one’s uplift, as Narada used it to fix attention on the Lord. Dwesha is Thamasic, as Durvasa expressed it in his dealings with Ambarisha and others. Without Raga and Dwesha, the mind cannot function at all. If these two are removed, there can be no mind and no Maya, and you get fixed in Jnana. Let Raga and Dwesha go and let Rama enter; then there will be no Manas or Maya. The Tattiriya Upanishad analyses the mind and its behaviour very well. It gives directions to merge the mind in God: the weapons with which you can foil the tactics of Raga and Dwesha. Use them for positive purposes, as Narada and Durvasa did. Have attachment to the Lord and aversion towards evil, pride, egoism. Water and fire are incompatible; fire is put out by water. But, by means of fire, you can convert water into steam and use it to haul long rakes of heavy wagons. ( Prasanthi Nilayam: 4-2-63)

Sadhana requires regular habits and moderation in food, sleep, and exercise. Fasting weakens the intellect and reduces the strength of discrimination. The body, the mind and the spirit, all three must be equally looked after. Unless you have “muscles of iron and nerves of steel”, you cannot contain in your heart the tremendously transforming idea of Advaita, of your being the Universal itself, the Eternal Reality itself! Lesser strength can only think in terms of servitude or subsidiary roles. To see the Truth is Truth, and the untruth as untruth, clarity of vision and courage of vision are both needed. (Prasanthi Nilayam-6-2-63)


hamsa the swan

Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaaya Dhimahi
Tanno Hamsha Pracodayaat

“May we realise Hamsa that is our own Self as Swan. Let us meditate on that Paramahamsa, the Supreme Self. May Hamsa illumine us.”

This one of the several popular Gayatri mantras.

Great saints are called Parama hamsa. It means Supreme Swan. We have great saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1856) and Paramahamsa Yogananda (1893-1952) within the last two hundred years. Sadasiva Brahmendra composed short and sweet kritis in Sanskrit and had the ‘mudra’/signature “paramahmasa” in all his compositions.