Question 209: The Story of Muni Vitahavya

The Story of Muni Vitahavya The young Rama asks Sage Vasishtha about true knowledge or non-dual cognition. This gives the sage the opportunity to narrate the story of Muni Vitahavya and is interior dialogue with his mind. It is a tour-de-force instruction of the mind (chitta, consciousness) that it has no basis, no reality and the only reality that is, is that of the Atma. Thereafter, one has non-dual cognition, samyak-jnana, samyak-drishti.


tattva San. n. ‘thatness’ – real nature, essence, principle; truth, reality, the Absolute (brahman); one of the five elements; the chemical elements.

jiva: an individual, person, spark of the Divine Atma

chitta San. noun. the mind (the seat of understanding and awareness, of intellect and will);

samadhi: Samadhi is a state of profound and utterly absorptive contemplation of the Absolute

sakshi-roop the witnessing Self

param – Hin. adj. parama– San. prefix (superlative of para) supreme, best, perfect, most glorious, in the highest degree, most excellent, ultimate, transcendental, mightiest, most remote, further than.

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

Paramatma: The Supreme Soul; the Supreme Being;

vasana: tendencies or desires

jivanmukta: permanently self-realised (or God-realised) person who no longer has any indentification whatsoever with his or her body.

vidyadhar: one who possesses knowledge; a group of supernatural beings who do good;


Question 209: Sir, what are the characteristics of true knowledge or non-dual cognition?

Answer: Ramji, the firm faith that Atma is of the nature of ananda (bliss) and is the universal tattva without a beginning and an end, and that it illumines everything, is the true knowledge or non-dual cognition. The faith that there is nothing but Atma, is non-dual cognition. The firm realisation that the all-pervasive Atma is always pure and self-independent and is of the nature of supreme bliss (Paramananda) is non-dual cognition. A person with non-dual cognition realises the entire universe as an aspect of Atma. There is no duality in Atma-tattva that always exists in itself.

A jiva with such cognition has the attitude of the non-dual (samyak drishti – seeing all as one) and is liberated. A jiva with a different cognition is subject to bondage and he revolves in the cycle of rebirths. Atma, and not the objects, is cognised when one reflects on the beginning and the end, or the being and the non-being of the objects. When, with this kind of contemplation, a jiva is established in Atma, he has non-dual cognition.

Ramji, here I am reminded of the story of Muni Vitahavya. Listen intently, and as you reflect on it you will become fearless and will attain the supreme state. A hermit (muni), Vitahavya by name, developed detachment and retired to a cave in the hills. Thinking that the worldly actions were a form of suffering, he realised that these actions produced great illusions. With this conviction, he abandoned the mundane actions, built a hermitage of leaves, and made a seat of grass which he covered with a deer skin. Then fixing himself in the lotus posture, he entered into samadhi. Controlling the tendencies of his senses and of the mind, and eliminating all external attractions, he abandoned all ideas of material objects. Even when he was fixed like this, his mind wandered after sense objects, and it was not stabilised even for a moment.

Surprised at this, he tried to counsel his mind thus: “You foolish mind! The senses with which you accept the objects, are themselves gross and unreal and you never achieve tranquillity with these. The objects of the senses are gross and unreal and you, too, are gross. So why do you have the pride of action? The doer of everything and free from the spirit of the doer, the Supreme Being (Chidananda Ishwara) is always of the nature of the witness (sakshi-roop). Then what for are you agitated? O chitta (mind), you are such a big fool that you have been indulging in sensual gratifications in every manner, without ever being satiated. All your actions are in vain. Therefore, I abandon you. Now I am awake in the true self and the existence of the universe appears a non-entity to me.

“O foolish mind, the objects that you are chasing — accepting them as pleasant — appear like nectar in the beginning because of non-contemplation (avichar), but later these very objects become like a poison and cause great agony while parting. You have assumed yourself to be a doer and a consumer but neither you nor your senses are a doer or a consumer; you all are insentient. How can you and I be friends? If you are sentient and real, then actions and gratifications do not befit you, because these are unreal.

But you accept actions and pleasures; hence, you are unreal, whereas I am consciousness. You come into being when I accept your being. You have the capacity for actions and gratifications by virtue of my powers. You are alive on account of ignorance and become extinct with the attainment of wisdom; hence you are like a dead body and you lack intelligence. In reality, neither you nor the senses exist. Only I — immortal and of the nature of wisdom, cognition and bliss (paramananda) — exist in myself. I appear as diverse forms, but do not attain diversity.

O chitta, achieve the state of pure consciousness, and then only your feelings of duality will vanish and you will be free from sufferings. You are not distinct from Atma. The same Atma pervades everything; therefore, what for are you engaged in imaginations? You will achieve nothing with these false imaginations. You are unnecessarily agitated because of the ego. O chitta, because of ignorance, you are manifested with mind, senses and body, and you become non-existent when knowledge of the Atma arises. How can you have a bond with knowledge because of which you lose your existence? You were in existence as long as I was ignorant of my true self. Since my ignorance has been dispelled and I have realised my true self, I cannot find where you are.”

Ramji, having thus counselled the chitta (mind, consciousness), Muni Vitahavya came to realise that the senses and the mind, which are unreal, are the products of ideation (sankalpa). They become non-existent as soon as wisdom arises. Then he said to his mind, “O chitta, just as darkness is dispelled with the rising of the sun, so you become non-existent with the realisation of Paramatma. It is due to vasana that you rise as a veil before Atma, but when vasana becomes extinct, the veil is destroyed.

Ignorance is the root of vasana. When lack of knowledge and vasanas become extinct, then only Chidananda Brahman (the Absolute that is consciousness-bliss-existence) shines. Vasana is the cause of bondage, and the extinction of vasana is liberation, moksha. The Atmic state cannot be attained till the veil of body and senses exists before Atma. If you desire salvation, practise for the Atmic state.

As long as a jiva cognises himself as associated with the mind and senses, he does not realise the supremacy and reality of the true self. When Atma is realised, faults like love, hate, etc are removed. O chitta, how can you and the senses be associated with Atma, when on realising Atma you and the senses become extinct? I am fully convinced that the universe is experienced because of the association of the mind and senses. Now that my mind is extinct as a result of inquiry into Atma, I am very happy. The foolish mind experiences joy and sorrow on getting pleasant and unpleasant objects.

How can Atma—that is pure consciousness, free from ideations and of the nature of witness—be associated with the body and senses? Thus, I am Atmic principle that is flawless. Neither I act, nor do I indulge, and I am free from both bondage and liberation. I am the stainless Atma-nature. I am mind, earth, water, fire, air and space, too. He who thus actually realises himself, is not entangled in attachments.

But he who considers himself distinct from Atma, due to his body-ego, undergoes immense sufferings. O chitta, if you desire well-being, surrender yourself to Atma; and if forgetting Atma you hanker after ideations, you will suffer immensely. Just as akash (space) is not stained by air, so you are free from the stains of actions. A jiva cognises his association with chitta etc only when he forgets his true self. The chitta appears sentient on the support of the potencies of Atma. Atma is always illuminating, all-pervasive, pure and of the nature of ananda.”

Ramji, reflecting in this manner, Muni Vitahavya continued to counsel his mind saying, “O mind, why are you devoted to false purposes? Still you are not free from sensual gratifications. Abandon desires for material objects and accept your Atma nature that is real and indestructible, so that you may become free from sufferings. O chitta, unless you are extinct, peace cannot be attained. You are deadly, and I advise that if you chase the world cognising it as real, you will earn no good, but if you are directed towards Atma, you will be benefited. If you are absorbed in Atma, you will attain liberation and bliss, otherwise you will suffer immensely.

In the absense of discrimination, I have always suffered in your company; now that I have destroyed you with discrimination, I have realised my true self. I am grateful to discrimination which has destroyed you. O chitta, I had your association for a long time because of ignorance. With the attainment of wisdom, however, your ideational nature has been destroyed and now that you are free from desires and wishes, you are divine. As long as I had not known my true self, you were assumed as true; but on knowing my true self now, I am established in the Self only and have attained to the supreme state of quiescence. All my disturbances have disappeared and I am Brahmswaroop, that is (my form is) pure consciousness and bliss. The ideas of truth and falsehood of the universe have also vanished because the ideas were in the miind. As the mind is dead, how could ideations be there? Now I am only pure Atma.”

Ramji, having thus counselled his chitta, Muni Vitahavya entered into samadhi in the cave. On attaining the state of stainless mind like akash (space) and withdrawing the outward tendencies of the senses, he purified them and fixed them in Atma that is of the nature of the witness. When he had thus spent three hundred years in samadhi, the ideation of the body rose again but there was no movement of prana. He spent one hundred years in this state quietly as a jivanmukta and as pure Atma. Thereafter he spent one hundred years as a vidyadhar among the vidyadhars. Then he enjoyed the status of Devendra for five yugas when he was respected by gods. After this, he spent a kalpa as an associate (gana) of Lord Shiva when he obtained knowledge of all types and could see the past, the present and the future. He was stabilised in the state of jivanmukta.

Ramji, just as Muni Vitahavya developed discrimination, and did not identify his self with the chitta and thus attained to the supreme state, so you should be independent of your chitta and being established in the supreme state, attain liberation.


13. “This life force comes and dwells in a body for a while. While therein, it experiences infancy, childhood, youth, and old age, and then, upon death, passes eventually to a new body. Changes such as death pertain to the body, not the Atma. The wise person does not get caught up in the delusion that he or she is this body, Arjuna. This delusion is the very definition of ego.

14. “Arjuna, the contact of bodily senses with objects and attractions in the world creates feelings like sorrow or happiness, and sensations like heat or cold. But these are impermanent, transitory, coming and going like passing clouds. Just endure them patiently and bravely; learn to be unaffected by them.

15. “The serene person, unaffected by these worldly feelings and sensations, is the same in pain and pleasure, and does not allow him – or herself to get disturbed or sidetracked. This is the person fit for immortality. Realize this and assert your strength, Arjuna. Do not identify your True Self merely with your mortal body.

16. “Real, as used in spirituality, means that which is eternal, never changing, indestructible. This is the very definition of ‘Reality’. That which is Real never ceases to be. Anything that is impermanent, even if it lasts a very long time and seems durable, eventually changes and thus does not have true Reality. The wise ones understand the difference between the Real and the not-Real. When you fully understand this profound fact, you will have attained the zenith of all knowledge.

“One’s body, according to this logic, is not Real. And yet, there is something that dwells within the body that is Real : the Atma – which is existence itself; awareness, pure consciousness. Bhagavad Gita 2: 13-16




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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