“Contemplation on the Atman” – A dialogue with the 35th Jagadguru of Sringeri

Young Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamiji
Young Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamiji

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

This post is an excerpt from the book “Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection”. It is an account of the early adhyaatmic life of the 35th Jagadguru of Sringeri, Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamiji. The following excerpt details an incident where the 34th Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekara Bharati Mahaswamiji (referred to by “Acharyal” by the 35th Jagadguru) graced his shishya, the 35th Jagadguru, with a teaching on the contemplation on the Atman, absolute consciousness, the real nature of the saadhaka. This incident was shared with the author, a shishya of the 35th Jagadguru by the Jagadguru Himself. It is shared here purely for the sake of my own recollection and for sharing it with other saadhakas. The dialogues are colour-coded in order to facilitate ease of understanding, and this should be clear to the reader as he/she reads the post.

Greetings,
Prasad.
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The following is a translation made by me (the author of the book “Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection”) of a portion of Acharyal’s benedictory address delivered in Kannada at the Sringeri Shankara Math, Bangalore, on September 5, 1987. This discourse was the last of a series of six by Acharyal on Paramacharyal. The occasion was a “Smarana-Saptaaha” (A week of recollection)” organised at the Math in which various speakers talked about Paramacharyal.

[These six discourses have been translated by the author and made available in the book titled, “Divine Discourses”]

_________________

Acharyal (Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha): When staying in Narasimhavana with My Guru (Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekara Bharati Mahaswamiji) I used to go every evening to behold Sharadaamba and remain there for up to an hour. On My return, He once asked Me, “You have crossed the river and come. What thought arose in Your mind?”

“What thought?”, I wondered and replied, “There were various objects which I saw.”

“What was new?”

“Nothing. I saw what was visible.”

“Must You see whatever is in the range of Your vision?”

“If the eyes are kept closed, it is not possible to walk.”

“You must see and yet not see.”

“How is that possible?”

To this, He said, “This is how we should ever conduct ourselves”

आत्माम्बोधेस्तरङ्गोऽस्म्यहमिति गमने

{Author’s note: This occurs in Bhagavatpaada’s Shatashloki. The complete verse is:

आत्माम्भोधेस्तरङ्गोऽस्म्यहमिति गमने भावयन्नासनस्थः

संवित्सूत्रानुविद्धो मणिरहमिति वाऽस्मीन्द्रियार्थप्रतीतौ।

द्रष्टा(दृष्टो)ऽस्म्यात्मावलोकादिति शयनविधौ मग्न आनन्दसिन्धौ

अन्तर्निष्ठो मुमुक्षुः स खलु तनुभृतां यो नयत्येवमायुः॥

ātmāmbhodhestaraṅgo’smyahamiti gamane bhāvayannāsanasthaḥ

saṁvitsūtrānuviddho maṇirahamiti vā’smīndriyārthapratītau|

draṣṭā(dṛṣṭo)’smyātmāvalokāditi śayanavidhau magna ānandasindhau

antarniṣṭho mumukṣuḥ sa khalu tanubhṛtāṁ yo nayatyevamāyuḥ||

When Acharyal first told me, in 1980, about the advice He had received based on this verse, He said that “द्रष्टाऽस्मि” and “दृष्टोऽस्मि” were alternative readings. Paramacharyal had Himself referred to them.}

[Paramacharyal continuing] “When we get up from a seated position and start walking, the feeling should not be, ‘We are walking and going somewhere.’ In the big ocean – the Atman – a wave has arisen. That wave is moving forward. This is the supposition. There is no difference between the wave and the ocean. Yet, because one walks (and thus moves forward like the wave), one should think of oneself as the wave. When the occasion to walk arises, one should contemplate, ‘I am a wave in the ocean of bliss, in the ocean of the Atman.’ ” His advice surprised Me. He went on, “At all times, even when You talk to someone – repeat this idea in the mind.”

With practice, one uninterruptedly carries on this repetition even while speaking. Experience confirms this.

What should be the thought when one is seated? He (Paramacharyal) advised:

.. भावयन्नासनस्थः

संवित्सूत्रानुविद्धो मणिरहमिति

…bhāvayannāsanasthaḥ

saṁvitsūtrānuviddho maṇirahamiti

In the thread of knowledge, a gem has been strung. The gem cannot be removed; the thread is made of unbreakable consciousness. I am that gem. Contemplation must be done in this manner.

.. इन्द्रियार्थप्रतीतौ।

द्रष्टा(दृष्टो)ऽस्म्यात्मावलोकादिति

.. indriyārthapratītau|

draṣṭā(dṛṣṭo)’smyātmāvalokāditi

Whenever some object is seen, the reflection should not be, “This object is now visible”. One must think, “Aha! Objectless consciousness has now become associated with objects. The Atman was manifest earlier but now its manifestation has increased.” On receiving a blow, we become markedly aware of the body; do we not? We normally do have awareness of the body but this awareness increases when we are beaten. Similar is the case here. Accordingly, even when perceiving some external object, one should cogitate that apprehension of the Atman has occurred.

शयनविधौ मग्न आनन्दसिन्धौ

śayanavidhau magna ānandasindhau

Do not just fall asleep. When lying down, contemplate, “I am now immersed in an ocean of bliss” and, with this feeling, begin to sleep. It is very good. Whoever wants can test the difference between simply lying down and going to sleep and sleeping after voluntarily eradicating all thoughts from the mind while lying down, generating a feeling of bliss and retaining it for some minutes till sleep overtakes one. The great joy that this approach to sleep yields become apparent once it is experienced for a few days.

अन्तर्निष्ठो मुमुक्षुः स खलु तनुभृतां यो नयत्येवमायुः॥

antarniṣṭho mumukṣuḥ sa khalu tanubhṛtāṁ yo nayatyevamāyuḥ||

He who spends his life in this fashion is, amongst people, the firmly inward-turned one desirous of liberation. Therefore , when walking, sitting, standing, and even when lying down, this is how we must conduct our life.

This is the advice My Guru gave Me.

{Author’s note: When Acharyal told me, in 1980, about this advice of Paramacharyal, He gave the following additional information}.

Acharyal (Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha): I was seated in front of Acharyal (Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekara Bharati) when He gave this explanation. No sooner had He completed His instruction about the attitude to be maintained when seated than I strove to put this teaching into practice. I did not think it appropriate to delay doing so even slightly. However, though I promptly generated the thought, “I am a gem strung on the thread of consciousness”, the intensity of My contemplation was poor. A reason was that I was then primarily concentrating on what Acharyal was telling Me about the attitudes relating to perception and sleep. Further, while karma-yoga and japa had become effortless for Me at that time, such contemplation was new to Me. As  I walked into My room after Acharyal had finished, I contemplated, “I am a wave in the blissful ocean that is the Atman.” The intensity of this contemplation was much better.

While I sincerely strove to practice what Acharyal had taught Me, I did experience a couple of difficulties. This contemplation clashed now and then with My karma-yoga (involving dedicating all actions and their fruits to God). Acharyal resolved this difficulty by telling Me two days later, “The time has come for You to go beyond the stage of karma-yoga, which You have mastered. Now, direct Your efforts to contemplating on the Atman”.

Another difficulty I had was that this contemplation partially came in the way of My enjoying the presence of Amba in the temple, mentally worshiping Narasimha and the like. This is because I did these while seating and now I had been advised to contemplate when seated that I am a gem strung in the thread of consciousness. Acharyal Himself clarified, “While the knowledge of the Atman of a jivanmukta(one liberated while living) remains undisturbed by any thoughts and bodily activity, the case of contemplation by a spiritual aspirant is different. So, for the present, do Your mental worship and the like as before and practice contemplation on the Atman at other times.”

Thought I no more had any fundamental problems, My contemplation suffered from occasional discontinuities. Such breaks mainly occurred when I was speaking and when I got carried away by the beauty of the river and the surroundings. One evening when I went to Acharyal’s presence, He asked, “Where are You coming from?” “From Amba’s temple”, I replied. “What did you see on the way?”, He queried. A break had occurred in My contemplation while crossing the Tunga. Understanding the thrust of His question, I said that I beheld fish playing in the Tunga.Did You contemplate correctly at that time?” was Acharyal’s next query. “I was contemplating before and after that but for a few moments, the process became disrupted”, I admitted. Acharyal said, “Never give room for such breaks.”

I hung My head in shame and resolved that I should not be such a useless disciple. Thereafter, by Acharyal’s grace, such discontinuities in contemplating did not occur. In a few months, the four forms of contemplation became effortless.

Author: In which year did Paramacharyal teach Acharyal about the आत्माम्भोधे.. verse?

Acharyal: Aangirasa (April 7, 1932 to March 27, 1933).

Author: When did the contemplation become natural?

Acharyal (after a few moments of thought): It was some time before My birthday (Asvina Krishna Chaturdashi) in the year Shrimukha.

{Author’s note: Acharyal completed 16 years of age in the year Shrimukha (1933-34) on October 18, 1933. }

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