Question 196: How is ignorance destroyed?

lily pad and lotusRama asks ‘How to destroy ignorance?’ The sage replies that knowledge, self-enquiry, enquiry into the nature and purpose of this world is the needful. Wisdom exposes the attraction to material gratification. When this is lost, and body-ego is gone, then knowledge of the Atma arises. This is how the sage explains.

Atma-satta The potency of Atma (the Soul).
Atma-tattva reality of the Spirit; the primordial element; the consciousness that is the primeval element of existence;
vichara: self-inquiry; contemplation, thought; reflection and introspection
vichara: inner inquiry as against blind unreasoning faith.
viveka: discrimination
sat: real
asat: unreal
chitta: individual consciousness

Question 196: Sir, how to destroy ignorance? Kindly explain it to me.

Answer: Ramji, knowledge is the means to destroy ignorance; by no other means can ignorance be destroyed. Just as darkness cannot be removed without light, so ignorance cannot be removed without contemplation (vichar). Knowledge is the name for contemplation (vichar) and ignorance is the name for non-contemplation (avichar When ignorance is removed, or non-contemplation (avichar) is replaced by contemplation (vichar), then attraction for material gratifications is lost and a person lives with contentment in the awareness of the Atma.

Ramji, first reflect thoroughly on
➔ what the universe is,
➔ how it is created,
➔ how it merges,
➔ who ‘I’ am,
➔ what is real (sat) and,
➔ what is unreal (asat)

Reflecting like this, you accept what is real and reject what is unreal. This is said to be removing ignorance with knowledge.

Ramji, nothing is achieved with external help and without one’s striving. Therefore, befriend your mind, and be firm in detachment and practice; then you will be liberated from the sorrows of the illusory universe. If you cannot do anything else, do this much at least—abandon your body-ego. When your body-ego is lost, then knowledge of the Atma will arise automatically.

Ramji, the entire universe is an aspect of the infinite Atma. When the inclination of the individual consciousness is withdrawn from the idea of the universe and the mind is firmly fixed in Atma awareness (the Self), then the same universe is cognised as an aspect of Atma. Thereafter all tendencies about the universe disappear and only the principle of the Atma is experienced. So, you abandon the ideas of the universe, and strive for the realisation of Atma.

Question 197: Sir, how to annihilate mind so that ego is eradicated ?

Answer: Ramji, mind is to be annihilated with mind, or, in other words, by contemplation and knowledge. Extinction of the mind by any other means is impossible. Ego becomes extinct when the mind is annihilated. The sufferings of the world do not disappear if the mind stays. Mind is the cause of the universe and of the sufferings. Here I am reminded of an anecdote that I shall narrate, and as you reflect on it you will earn bliss.

There lived on a hill two boys, named Bhas and Vilas. They hailed from rishi families and were beautiful and attractive. Both loved each other immensely. After some time they lost their parents and became very unhappy. They became very weak and lost their charm. This happened with them because they lacked wisdom. In due course they were separated from each other. When they met later, Vilas asked Bhas, “Brother, where had you been all these years and what were you doing? lt appears from your face that you have achieved purity of mind and attained bliss.” Expressing joy on meeting Vilas, Bhas said, “A jiva does not enjoy peace in the world until he has attained the bliss of the Atma. Knowledge of the Atma is the panacea for the sufferings in the world. Forgetting detachment, the mind hankers after material gratifications, forgets the treasures of Atma and comes under the baneful influences of ego. A person suffers continuously, assumes that he acts and has to attend to what remains to be done. Being involved in such desires, he undergoes great sufferings in the cycle of rebirths. Atmic bliss is attained when body-ego is lost.”

Bhas and Vilas continued to exchange ideas like this and lived together. After spiritual practices over a period of time, both of them attained liberation. You, too, should strive for the attainment of wisdom. Liberation is not possible in the absence of wisdom. Just as a bird flies with two wings, so are detachment and practice the two wings with which a person crosses the ocean of the universe.

Ramji, all sorrows congregate where ego and attachments are present. Therefore, you abandon the ideas of I and mine. As the illusions in your mind vanish, your desires for material gratification will also be reduced. When the ego vanishes from the mind, an individual is not touched by sorrows; rather he is blessed with bliss. The potency of the Atma – that is just consciousness – pervades all bodies; it is pure and free from dualities. The mind of one who is established in the reality of the Atma, is extinct.

Ramji, when you are relieved of inward identifications (in the mind), you will experience no sorrows. When your mind is not identified with anything, you will not be affected by sorrows, no matter if you have a body and sense organs. Joy and sorrow are experienced when body-ego is present. When the identifications are absent, the mind becomes extinct, and all attachments vanish and only Atma is visualised. Detachment leads to the purity of consciousness and then nothing but Atma is cognised. Those who are seen working in the world with detachment are liberated. The only difference between liberation and bondage is that a person with detachment is a non-doer even while he is performing all functions, whereas a person with ego is in bondage even if he does nothing.


“As I mentioned earlier, Arjuna, you cannot renounce action without first performing it. The karma-yogi comes to realize through the direct experience of selfless action in the world that life beyond the pull of worldly desire is better than life entangled in it. Without direct experience one has to rely on theory and concepts. Theorizing and make-believe have no place in one’s spiritual career.

“The mind absorbed in the Divine even while engaging in earthly activities gets purified. Purifying your mind means that your sense of doership vanishes and God becomes the doer. It also means that you realize your Self as the Atma in all beings. This purity of mind and heart leads to higher spiritual discipline and thus to true oneness with the Godhead. It is at this highest of high places where the paths of renunciation and action converge.

“The enlightened person always thinks, ‘I (the Real I) do nothing; I (this body ‘I’) am but the instrument.’ He or she is constantly aware of this while seeing or hearing, touching or smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping, breathing, speaking, letting go or holding on, or even when opening or closing the eyes – aware that all these activities are but interactions among bodily senses and worldly objects. The activities may seem real but it is not the Self, it is merely nature at work. All actions pertaining to bodily existence take place in the worldly self, which is not the real Self. Atma, as you have learned, is beyond all worldly matters.

“As the lotus floating on the surface of muddy water stays untouched by the water, when you offer all actions to the Divine and surrender any yearning for the results, you cannot be tainted.

“Purity of action, mind, and heart is absolutely essential for further spiritual growth. To a karma-yogi who has turned his or her whole life toward Divinity, the body, senses, and intellect are just instruments for self-purification. Any work this karma-yogi performs is done dispassionately, and this enhances spiritual unfolding. (Bhagavad Gita 5:6-11)


lily pad and lotus


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.”

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