“My obeisance to my spiritual master and to the great Acharyas, who with their torch of knowledge illuminated my mind and removed the darkness of ignorance”.
With this humble prayer, let me attempt, with all my limitations, to explain the sublime concept of GOD consciousness. What is God consciousness? Every theist believe in existence of GOD. Some call it GOD believing and some say GOD fearing. Is that all what is meant by GOD consciousness? At a superficial level this may still be okay. However, as per shastras, GOD consciousness means, understanding the true identity of self and realizing our eternal relationship with GOD. This has been described in our Vedas, Bhagavat Gita as well as in puranas like Srimad Bhagavatam and has been explained by Rishis and our Acharyas (Spiritual masters) in great details. All glories to the Acharyas. I have just attempted to meditate on them. Any defect in this attempt is due to my inadequate knowledge and I beg for forgiveness from the great Acharyas.
We are very fortunate to take a human birth. After many lakhs of births through various species, we have been awarded this human body as per our past karmas. The great Tamil saint Auvaiyar says “It is a rare honor to be born as a human being and that too with good health and intelligence” Why is the human birth fortunate? What is the difference between human and rest of living species? God has provided every living entity with facilities for the following basic instincts namely – eating, sleeping, mating and defending. For any living species in this universe, these four activities are the same. Then how is a human being different? That is because he has got special features of free will and intelligence. Why is he given these special features? There are certain commons perceptions. Compared to the animals, his physical powers are limited which is compensated by his intelligence. With his intelligence, he can control the rest of the living species and rule them. But is that all? If the purpose of human life is also just to satisfy the four basic instincts then in what way we are different from animals? Animals also satisfy their basic instincts. We just do it in a dignified manner.
If we look at all these economic developments, technological and medical advancements they are all aimed at comfortable living of an individual. Everybody would agree with me that we struggle from morning to evening to earn money. What for? To have good house, sumptuous food, safe place to stay and to take care of our family. This again boils down to satisfying the same four instincts, which I mentioned previously. If we look at animals, they are able to satisfy all these with minimal or no struggle. God has made enough arrangements in nature to satisfy these requirements. That means, it is utter foolishness on our part to struggle so much and waste all our energy and time in such mundane activities. Human birth should be channelized for something better and that is god consciousness. Brahma Sutra says– “Athatho Brahma Jignyasa”, which means “it is time for inquiry into the Brahman- The absolute truth”.
To understand god consciousness, we need to know the answers for these five questions
- Who am I?
- Who is GOD and what is my relationship with him?
- What is the ultimate goal in my life – Purushartham?
- What is the means to attain that – Upaayam?
- What are the hindrances in this endeavor?
The answer to first question is we are spirit soul (Jiva Atma) and not the body. This body is made of matter which is a combination of three gunas (Satvam, Rajas and Tamas). It is temporary and will die one day. However, the soul is eternal (B.G 2.12 and 13). It has no beginning or end. The soul is described as minute as 1in 1000th of the tip of a hair (Anu). Hence, it can neither be cut, nor burnt, nor drowned nor dried (B.G 2.23). Just like we replace old torn clothes with new one, the soul also replaces old and diseased body with new one after death (B.G 2.20 &22). This can also be explained by giving a Mobile hand set and SIM card analogy. A mobile hand set, like a body, has all features within itself but will not serve the purpose of phone without SIM card which is akin to its soul. On the other hand, the SIM card needs Mobile hand set or a body to perform the functions. Once, the hand set is damaged, the SIM card along with its memory is transferred to another hand set and it starts functioning. Similarly, the soul with its astral body (Sukhsma shareera ) and all its karmas and vasanas transmigrates to the next body.
The soul takes repeated births in various forms of life as per its previous Karma (Past deeds) and vasana (Likings). Animal and plant life, though sentient are completely under the influence of material nature and their life cycle is more or less pre-determined. The lower life is only to spend the karma and not to accumulate. Whereas, it is in human birth that we accumulate karma. This is because, in human birth, the soul gets back its free will and intelligence to decide what is wrong and what is right. Hence, it becomes responsible for its actions. It is appropriate to say that human life is the platform where the soul can accumulate more karma or exhaust all its karma. The very purpose of this human life is to exhaust the past karma, seek the lotus feet of Lord, break the shackles of birth and death and attain liberation. But as a conditioned soul, we are under the influence of Maya or illusion.(B.G 7.14 ) and forgotten our true identity. We identify our self with the material body and this is called “false ego”. Not only that, we consider this material world to be our permanent place and try to seek all comforts and happiness here. The basic quality of any soul is to be happy always. Brahma sutra says – “Aananda mayo abhyāsāt”. Under the influence of Maya, the conditioned soul tries to seek material happiness which is temporary. However, in this world, happiness and distress will keep alternating. Lord Krishna describes this world as “Dhukhālayam Ashāshwatham” (Temporary world full of miseries) (B.G. 8.15). In a constant endeavor to seek material happiness, nobody is permanently happy. A man earns good money, he is happy. At the same time comes the fear and worry of safeguarding it. He attains a good position and social status, he is happy. But along with it comes the tension of maintaining it. Not only that, man’s desires can never be satisfied. Person who ride a two wheeler wants to ride a car and those who have a car want a luxurious car. Sky is the limit for these desires. Still man is never satisfied. He is in search of more happiness. Just as a fire does not extinguish by adding more fuel to it, so is the desire (kama). Second, these material happiness are temporary, whereas a soul by nature is longing for permanent happiness. But the under Maya, the conditioned soul is searching for such happiness in wrong place. Many a times what we experience as happiness is actually a relief from distress.
For example, I sustain some injury and suffer severe pain. Relief from that pain gives me happiness. But in reality it is just a relief from distress. Most importantly, these happiness will anyway come to us, whether we struggles or not, based on our past karmas, just like the distress which comes without we asking for it. This was told by the exalted devotee Prahalad Maharaj (Srimad Bhagavatham 7.6.3)
Sukham aindriyakam daitya, Deha- yogena dehinām/
Sarvatā labhyate daivād, Yathā duhkham ayatnatah//
Hence, there is no point in lamenting about the distress or feeling exalted about happiness, because both are temporary and both are for the body. Whereas, the soul is meant to be eternally happy.
The second question is who is GOD? GOD or the Supreme personality is called as Bhagavan (“Bhaga” – all the opulence and “Van” – possessor), he who has got all the opulence in full – namely – Beauty, Strength, Knowledge, Fame, Wealth and Renunciation. He is Anaadhi (Beginingless) and Anantha (Endless). He is “Sat- Chit – Anandha vigraha” (Truth, knowledge and bliss). The entire universe is created and sustained by him and in the end will also rest in him after annihilation. Taithriya Upanishad says
“Yatho vā imāni bhutāni jāyanthi, yena jāthani jeevanthi,
yat prayanth abhishamvishanthi tat vijignyasva tat brahma iti”
He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient (Taithriya Upanishad)
“Anthar Bahirscha tat sarvam vyāpya Nārāyanah sthitah”
Under his supervision, revolves the entire material nature (B.G 9.10). He is the Supreme and there is nobody equal or superior to him (B.G 7.7, 10.8). He is the Super soul of all the living beings. He is their beginning, middle and end (B.G 10.20). He permeates the entire material and spiritual world. Not even a blade of grass can move without his permission. He is Vibhu. He is our goal, he is our sustainer, master, witness, the abode, shelter and a good friend (B.G 9.18). He is our eternal father and mother (B.G 9.17).
We have understood that GOD or Paramatma is Vibhu (Infinite) and Jiva Atma is Anu (Infinitesimal). However, both are eternal. Now we need to understand our true relationship with him. We are His eternal part and parcel. Lord Krishna says “The living entities are my eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling hard with their six senses which include the mind.
Mamaivāṃśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtas sanātanaḥ |
Manaṣ ṣaṣṭhān-īndriyāṇi prakṛtisthāni karṣati ||
Supreme Lord is the energetic, otherwise called Vishnu tattva and includes all his plenary expansions. Qualitatively, Supreme Lord has two types of energies, superior and inferior. Superior energy is conscious and inferior energy is unconscious (matter). The superior energy again has two divisions, Internal energy and marginal energy. Spiritual world is governed by internal energy of the Lord. Jiva tattva or individual soul belong to the marginal energy because the jivatma may be under the control of internal energy in the liberated state or under the control of inferior energy (material energy) in conditioned state. Since, Jiva is a part of the superior energy of the Supreme, it has a part of all the qualities of the Supreme which includes a small independence. With this independence it wants to master over the material nature and enjoy it. However, the soul should realize that it is part of a whole, like hands, legs, eyes and ears of the whole body. Only the body can enjoy and parts of body can cooperate for its enjoyment. By serving the Supreme, the soul gets happiness just as the food taken by the stomach nourishes the whole body. There is no separate enjoyment for the soul. It is akin to hand trying the feed itself.
What is the goal of human life or Purushartha?
The ultimate goal of human life is “Moksha or Mukthi”. The definition of Mukthi as per Srimad Bhagavatam is “Muktir hitvānyathā- rupam svarupena vyavasthitih:” which means liberation of a soul from contaminated material consciousness and situation in pure consciousness. In simpler term, it is to break the cycle of birth and death, reach the lotus feet of Lord and serve Him eternally.
Shastras mention four purusharthas namely – Dharma (Duty), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Satisfy the desires) and finally moksha (liberation). Are these four separate goals? The answer is no. The first three are stepping stones to attain the final goal – Moksha. This requires some explanation. The conditioned soul has a desire to master the material nature and enjoy it. GOD gives allowance for the same. He allows the JIVA to satisfy its desire in a regulated manner. A social order is brought in, wherein each and every individual perform his duty (Dharma) as per his capabilities, according to the recommendations in scriptures. By doing so, he gets punya karma, prospers in this world (Artha) and satisfy all his material desires (Kama). During this process, even though the goal of that person is material enjoyment, since, he follows the shastric injunctions, his mind is gradually purified. He realizes that, these material enjoyments are not giving him any permanent happiness. That’s when he starts searching for higher truth – Brahman realization. SO, this is a beautiful arrangement made by GOD to purify our mind and take us all back home. This can further be explained by an analogy. Imagine, a child has just joined school. Initially, the child may be playful and not interested in studies. The parents may lure the child with some incentives like chocolates for home work or a bicycle for good performance in exams. The child will do the home work and study well for the sake of incentives. This will improve the knowledge of child and take him to the next level. Now, imagine the same child has grown up and is doing a PhD. Now, the results of his experiments will be the driving force and not chocolate or bicycle. Thus, there are enough allowances in Shastras for sense gratification in controlled manner. It is like a cow being tied by a rope to a tree. The cow gets that much of freedom as permitted by the length of the rope to graze. But if it breaks the rope and goes further, it will be lost. In the same way, if we stick to the domain of Shastras, we can enjoy the material world and gradually get purified.
Let us stop here for now. We will come back next week with second part, to seek answers for the remaining two questions and to find a practical approach to Bhakti in our day to day life.
Author – Dr. Murali Jayaraman, Super Specialist Doctor, working for Kavery group of Hospital.
Pic courtesy – Photo by Artem Bali , Sourabh Agarwal on Unsplash