Question 180: The Path to Immortality

pleasant sceneThe young Rama begins by asking what are the different types of karma (actions). The sage narrates the story of King Janaka of Videha, and the strategies he took up to manage the outgoing mind. Pain and pleasure, want and desire, unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the world are all caused by ideations in the mind. The sage gently takes the young Rama through the steps of being firmly established in the Atma. Sage Vasishtha tells Rama, ‘You must destroy mind with mind.’

vairagya: detachment

atmananda bliss to the soul

Videha kingdom north of the Ganges

purusha – the dweller in the citadel of the body’, ‘he who fills the body of man’ – man, the self, the individual person.

jagat: the Universe; that which is perpetually coming and going;

Atma-tattva reality of the Spirit; the primordial element; the consciousness that is the primeval element of existence;

vasana: tendencies or desires

chitta: chitta San. noun. the mind (the seat of understanding and awareness, of intellect and will); memory, thought, reflection; the soul, heart.

atma bhava spirituality; spiritual disposition;

sankalp Hin. sankalpa San. m. a vow; will, a definite intention, resolve, plan.

sankalpa: ideation; modification of chitta or consciousness; idea, resolve, volition (will);

sankalpa – mental conclusions, intentions, material desires Bg 6.24


Question 180: Sir, what is action (karma) and what are its types through which one can attain liberation?

Answer: Ramji, actions (karma) are of two types, superior and ordinary. According to ordinary karma, a jiva develops detachment as a result of satsang (company of the goodly and godly) and contemplation on scriptures, and after that he surrenders himself to his guru. Then practising according to the precept for one or a number of births, he gradually attains liberation. According to the other type of karma, an individual knows intuitively what is Atma (of the soul) and what is of the human. This is superior karma. Ramji, here I am reminded of a story and as you reflect on it, you will have pure intelligence.

Once upon a time there ruled in Videha (kingdom north of the Ganges) a generous and noble king called Janaka. He was blessed with all pleasures and knew no suffering. All were pleased with him. One day while he was strolling in his garden, he chanced to halt under a tree where he heard some voices of invisible jivas who were reciting the Gita. He stopped to hear the recitation. Then one of the invisible jivas said to his companions, “Friends, the wisdom and bliss which arises as a result of the merger of the seer that is purusha, and the sight, that is jagat, and also the bliss that is experienced on getting pleasures or on the removal of sufferings, are all manifestations of Atma-tattva. I am a seeker of the Pure Consciousness that is Atmananda, out of which all powers of ideation arise.” Then the second invisible jiva said, “I am a seeker of that Power which is of the nature of effulgence in which the trio of seer-seeing-sight, along with vasanas, is eradicated and out of which the threefold maya is manifested.” The third voice said, “I am a seeker of that which is untainted, beyond perception, and of the nature of experience, in which ideations and desires are non-existent and which is itself non-dual.” The fourth voice said,”I am a seeker of Atma, the effulgent potency, that is intermediary between existence and non-existence and is free from both, and from which the sun and others find manifestation.” The fifth voice said, “God is both with form and without form, or Soham (I am That) marks its beginning and end, and that infinite Paramatma – of the nature‘ of ananda and void (shunya) – exists and functions as aham ( I am ) in the hearts of all jivas. I am a seeker of that Paramatma.” The sixth voice said, “Those who, abandoning the omnipresent God seek some other god, are like those who seek pebbles leaving aside the jewels.” The seventh voice said, “The man who roots out the desires within attains the goal, or he does not suffer in the cycle of birth and death.”

Hearing this discourse of the invisible persons, King Janaka was infused with the spirit of vairagya, detachment. Returning from the garden, he retired to a room, and looking around, lamented deeply over the unstable and phenomenal character of the world. He regretted his dependence on transitory objects and pleasures of the world, and thought of the ephemeral nature of every object, and tried to renounce each. Realising himself too as unreal, he regretted his ignorance and disapproved of his absorption in kingship. He felt that all objects were sources of suffering and none of them would be with him in the afterlife. In this manner he tried to renounce all pleasures of the world and thus relieved himself of all desires.

Thinking of comforts, he felt that these were transitory and unreal and thus he could not seek dependence on them. When the great and the powerful had perished in the course of time, what was his significance and what for should he have vanity? With this spirit of renunciation of the ephemeral, he desired to be established in Atma that is immortal, indivisible and self—independent. Reflecting in this manner, he withdrew his mind from all objects, and abandoned all attachments.

All comforts of the world appeared as harmful and repulsive to him. The world appeared like a dream to him. He firmly realised that all joys and sorrows existed in the ideation of mind. The world is like a tree with many branches, leaves, flowers, etc., and the mind is its root. This tree grows on the water of ideation supplied by the root; when this supply is cut i.e., the mind becomes non-ideational, the tree withers away and perishes. The illusion of the world must be destroyed; it can be achieved through contemplation, and one must be engaged in reflection and introspection continuously.

Reflecting in this manner he counselled his mind saying,” O chitta (mind), the direction you have been inclined to and the pleasures you have enjoyed are all unreal, and you are still unsatiated. Therefore, renounce all these pleasures and be blessed in the Atmic state. O mind, you have indulged in a variety of virtues and vices and yet you have not attained quiescence. Now you must give up all these and try to seek dependence on Atma, so that you may attain peace and be free from all sufferings.” Practising resolutely in this manner, the king tried to eliminate instability of the mind and attain tranquillity. Thus he tried to practise evenness. Accepting that nothing in the world is worthy of acquisition or relinquishment, and that everything is ephemeral or illusory, he asked himself what he should seek in the world. As he became adept in his practice, he further counselled himself thus:

“Both action and inaction are alike; all actions of the body pertain to the body and are performed by the body. The quiescent and pure consciousness neither performs any actions nor enjoys them. Therefore, I must be fixed in the Atmic state even while I am engaged in mundane actions, or else the body will become lazy and weak. I must, therefore, participate without the feelings of joy or sorrow in all actions that arise before me in the natural course and I must not aspire for what I do not get, and also should be awake in my true state. When I am engaged without ideation in all actions, then performance and non-performance of all actions are alike. When my mind is free from desire and agony, or when there is no feeling of joy or sorrow with the performance of actions, and when no impurity is aroused in the mind, then it must be accepted that all actions — good or bad — performed by the body are alike.

When the mind functions by identifying itself with a body, it assumes to be a doer and an enjoyer and feels joy or sorrow for good or bad happenings. When the ideational disposition of the mind subsides, one remains a non-doer despite one’s actions. A man assumes a form according to the firm conviction in his mind (the inner sky of the heart). He whose mind is divested of ego, does nothing even if he is overtly seen in action. But he whose mind is loaded with ego, does a lot even though he might appear quiet or inactive overtly. Therefore, I must function with a firm conviction of the non-doer Atma in my mind. A person who is engaged in action overtly but is divested of ego within, is a serene person and he attains to the supreme state.”

O Ramji, in this manner King Janaka continued to practise the disposition of evenness. He further counselled himself, “O fickle mind, by refusing to accept the supreme blissful Atma as the source of pleasure, why do you desire the comforts of the illusory world? Renounce the desires for worldly comforts so that you may be established in the Atmic bliss. Stop your ideations, and then your illusion of the world will vanish. The entire universe is a creation of the ideation in the mind. When you renounce your mind, or stop your ideations, then all your sufferings will disappear. The ideation of mind is called sorrow, and when the ideation is extinct, sorrows vanish. When you practise with this firm faith, you will be untouched by joy or sorrow. Whether the world is real or unreal should be of little concern to you. Free yourself from the idea of the being or non-being of the world so that you are not misled by the good and bad qualities of nature. Be ever established in the Atma-tattva (reality of the spirit) so that you may attain to the state of the Abso1ute.”

Ramji, reflecting like this, the king conducted himself in the mundane affairs of the world. As a result of the spiritual discipline, his mind was not bound with attachments, and he was unaffected by attractive and unattractive objects. Being constantly established in his true self, he attended to mundane affairs and was always fixed in the present.

Ramji, you should be established in the Atmic state and carry on the mundane affairs like King Janaka so that you, too, may attain to the supreme state. If an individual puts the same amount of effort in spiritual endeavour, as he does towards the world, he will be relieved of all sufferings and will attain the supreme bliss. Six attributes are essential for the development of spiritual disposition (Atma-bhava) (spirituality), namely,

(i) Shama : not allowing the mind to externalise,
(ii) Dama : restraint of senses,
(iii) Uparati : living in silence/seclusion,
(iv) Titiksha 1 ideal forbearance ; evenness in joy and sorrow,
(v) Shraddha : total devotion to guru or Atma,
(vi) Samadhana : faith in the precept obtained from guru, methodical compliance therewith and merger of the mind in Atma.

When a jiva attains all the six attributes he attains the highest excellence.

Ramji, have the attitude that neither I nor the universe exists. When you practise like this, you will attain tranquillity of mind, the distinction between attractive and unattractive objects will disappear, and you will acquire equilibrium of mind and conduct yourself in the world according to destiny without attachments. Having lost the distinction between acceptance and rejection, or being indifferent to both these, concentrate on what remains thereafter, and you will attain great bliss (ananda). Have no consideration for gain or loss – both the ideas are unreal. Ananda does not arise until faults like hope and despair and attraction and repulsion exist in Atma that is Absolute and without forms or names.

The qualities that are manifested in a wise person are:
(i) Absence of inclination for gratifications or pleasures
(ii) Fearlessness arising with renunciation of body-ego
(iii) Constant realisation of oneself as an aspect of the Truth (Satswaroop)
(iv) Equilibrium of the mind
(v) Universal realisation of Atma (cognition of Atma everywhere and at all times)
(vi) Firm faith in wisdom
(vii) Desirelessness
(viii) Living without ego
(ix) Knowing oneself always as a non-doer
(x) Ignorance of good and evil
(xi) Living without ideation (sankalpa)
(xii) Being always in bliss
(xiii) Patience and sobriety
(xiv) Constant introvision
(xv) Friendliness
(xvi) Cognition of the Truth (Sat)
(xvii) Living in Atmic state with firm faith
(xviii) Cheerful state of the mind
(xix) Gentle speech

Ramji, when your chitta is drawn towards the worldly objects, revert it toward Atma with the force of detachment; Drive out all the vasanas (tendencies or desires) in your mind and function in the world only overtly. Awaken your mind and restrain your senses with detachment and contemplation on what is said in the scriptures. You must destroy mind with mind. Do not brood over the past and have no anxiety of the future, because these are unreal. Also do not think about the present knowing that it too is unreal. When the ideas of the world vanish in you with this discipline, no ideation or modification will arise in your mind. Drive out of your mind the ideas of the body and attachment to it. Then, live without joy and sorrow in what you got. You are Consciousness – unborn and supreme – nothing exists outside you, and you are all-pervasive. He who has such firm faith, is not disturbed by the objects of the world.

Ramji, the mind is gross and Atma is consciousness. All individuals assume objects with the power of consciousness; the mind has no potency by itself. The mind is only an aspect of sankalpa (will, a definite intention, resolve,), and it imagines by deriving its power from Atma.


when your chitta is drawn towards the worldly objects, revert it toward Atma with the force of detachment; Drive out all the vasanas (tendencies or desires) in your mind and function in the world only overtly.


Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaya Dheemahi
Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat

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