- On Language, Paths and Models
- The Advaita Model for Udasinta
- Udasinata and Shankara
- Udasinata in Bhagavad Gita: Making the End as the Means
- Udasinata in Vivekachudamani: The End
- Udasinata vs Titiksha
- The Three Stages of Udasinata: Aurobindo
In Part 1 “How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 1/3 – Titiksha/Endurance” of this three parts article which I had posted in my website a while ago, I talked about how a Jnani/Self Realized (Witness Stage) person deals with the negative impacts of the world as a Witness because of his Prarabdha Karma. There I talked about one grade of Witnessing called Titiksha/endurance. I talked about it as an “amoral” stage where one is not consciously moral or immoral but allows expressions of emotions while courageously enduring the impacts of all consequences of such expression. Though Titiksha is one of the elements of training while doing Jnana Yoga to attain Self Knowledge in the system of Shankara’s Vivartavada Advaita, it’s full potential, according to me, is utilized only post Self Knowledge or Witness stage because of the indestructible bedrock of stability provided by Self Knowledge/Witness. In the previous article I mention how the Self/Witness is called Kuthatha Chaitanya in a verse in Gita – like a blacksmith’s anvil on which various objects are hammered and shaped but the anvil remains unchanged. This analogy aptly describes the nerves of steel required to face the impacts that are going to be unleashed by one’s conscious amorality. This fact was also brought out as the Balya/courage required to stand as Witness/Awareness in the writings of Shankara even though he was speaking of it in a moral tone in an ascetic context.
In this article, I am going to talk about the second grade of Witnessing called Udasinata or High Indifference. In my opinion this is a higher grade of Witnessing; a stage one comes to after a significant stay in the Titiksha/Endurance stage. Unlike the Titiksha stage, this stage is not “amoral” but what I would call “skilfully moral”. Thus, it is a stage which develops sagely calm, taken to the hilt, results in complete destruction of sense of self/psychological mind/ego. In some places in Advaita literature this is called manonasha/destruction of psychological mind and vasanakshaya/ending of all subliminal instincts and impressions that cause afflictive emotions. It is not necessary, depending upon the vasanas of an individual, that one has to pass through the Titiksha stage to come to the Udasinata stage. Though, honestly speaking, I would consider it a stroke of immense grace if someone can come to Udasinata stage directly without going through Titiksha.
In Part 2 of this series, I am going to talk in terms of one of two models to describe Udasinata. There is the scientific model and the traditional model of Advaita. Here, I shall describe the traditional model and in part 3, I shall describe the scientific model. Both models, while using very different structures and concepts, ultimately arrive at the same result. I hope that in doing so, I shall also help readers, seekers and students to appreciate the fact that Advaita is not opposed to science, in fact it contains and supersedes science. At the same time I am aiming at something much subtler: to help my readers understand the fact that if one overcomes the hardwired notion that language or words refer to some truly existent objective realities, then one can use language, paths and models more fluidly and creatively to deconstruct false sense of duality that causes suffering in our lives. If you don’t get this point, no need to fuss over it; it is very subtle. Just read on further. I shall try to explain more of it. If you do not get it even then, just absorb what is written. At some point it will all come together. This is how it happened to me. It took me years and years of inquiry to understand this. Understanding this point is not at all necessary to understand the main crux of this article.
On Language, Paths and Models
This is a huge topic on its own. So I am not even making an attempt to do any justice to this topic in this brief exposition. The thrust of my article is to discuss Udasinata. But since I am going to discuss this topic through two very different languages and models/paths, i.e – Science and Advaita, if I do not give some explanation, it is going to cause major confusion amongst readers. I can class my readers in three levels of maturity with respect to the matter I am discussing here:
- At the first level are those who have a realist/scientific perspective of life. Those who believe that the world is made up of really, inherently existing, physical, discrete objects or phenomena. Most shall fall in this class. They shall immediately relate to the scientific outline/”story” I am going to describe in my next article.
- At the second level are those who have doubts about the realist and scientific account of life and have come to a non-dual self-inquiry path like Shankara’s Advaita to deconstruct all “notions” one holds of reality and find the ultimate reality. Some rare ones might have also travelled this journey to such an extent that they would have seen through the “delusion” of matter being an ultimate reality as science holds. Such people may have an “anti-science” stance, having known that ultimate reality as Awareness but who still see objects appearing to Awareness. These people are those who are at the Witness stage in the various stages I have outlined in my “Stages of Self Inquiry” page. They still have a duality Witness/Awareness and objects appearing to it. According to Shankara’s Vivartavada the objects are Awareness appearing as objects due to avidya/ ignorance.
- At the third level would be those extremely rare people who have seen through the delusion of both the first and second levels of understanding of reality I have stated above. They are those who have reached the collapse of Witness in the stages I have mentioned in my “Stages of Self Inquiry” page. Only this group of people would understand that all words are just conventional designations or name-forms, and they don’t refer to objective or inherently existent realities. They have deeply understood that all objects are also Awareness so that there is no distinction between a Witnessing subject and objects. The appearance of all multiplicity is nothing but Awareness. [Please note – Awareness itself is a label; is not some ‘thing”. It is attributeless or empty of all concepts. It is self revealing non-dual knowledge or luminosity]
People at all the three levels of understanding can understand what I shall be presenting about Udasinata in these two part articles. The first level of people shall relate more easily to the scientific model I shall present in Part 3. The second level would relate more easily to the Advaita model of Udasinata I shall present here in Part 2. The third level of people, who I guess would be very rare, would appreciate both models as valid ways to deconstruct duality which gives rise to suffering. Unlike the first and second level of people, they are not confounded by appearances/forms.
By making a general level of correspondence between the scientific model and the Advaita model of Udasinata I hope to also move the people at the first and second level a little closer to the third level.
The Advaita Model for Udasinta
The Advaita model of Udasinata comes in the path of Vivartavada of Shankara. According to Vivartavada the root problem of all suffering is that due to avidya/ignorance of our true nature as attributeless Awareness, we take ourselves, rather superimpose on ourselves the ideas of body-mind-intellect. Thereby we consider ourselves to be phenomenal individuals subject to the modifications of birth, growth, decay and death. The solution to this problem advanced by Vivartavada is to first shed our ignorance of our false identity through self inquiry, which and gain true knowledge of ourselves as Awareness/Witness. Once we come to the Witness stage, the task is to abide as Witness till we lose all “false ideas” of objects appearing to the Witness.
According to Vivartavada, the “false ideas” are vasanas or karmic imprints stored in the Causal Body. These Karmic imprints are of three kinds:
These are the accumulated works and actions that you have completed in the past. These cannot be changed but can only wait to come into fruition. This is the vast accumulation of karma that encompasses our countless past lifetimes. This comprises every action that you have ever made in your past and present lives.
Agami Karma is the Karma we are creating for ourselves right here in the current moment. It is the action that we create and the choices we make right now, as we live this present lifetime.
Prarabdha is that portion of the past karma that is responsible for the present. These are the ripe and fructuous actions and reactions. The things that you did in the past make you what you are today. It cannot be avoided or changed, but only exhausted by being experienced.
For a Jnani, the Sanchita and the Agami Karma have been obliterated due to his Self Realization, but he still has to bear the Prarabdha Karma which is stored in the form of vasanas.
Thus, Vivekachudamani, a highly revered Advaita text in the tradition of Vivartavada states:
Verse no. 267: Even after the Truth has been realised, there remains that strong, beginningless, obstinate impression that one is the agent and experiencer, which is the cause of one’s transmigration. It has to be carefully removed by living in a state of constant identification with the Supreme Self. Sages call that Liberation which is the attenuation of Vāsanās (impressions) here and now.
Connecting it to the Self as Witness, Vivekachudmani spells out the program of ending all vasanas in a subsequent verse
Verse no. 269: Realising thy own Inmost Self, the Witness of the intellect/Buddhi and its modifications, and constantly revolving the positive thought, “I am That”, conquer this identification with the non-Self.
And it talks about complete non-dual realization in the following verses:
Verse no. 275: The desire for Self-realisation is obscured by innumerable desires for things other than the Self. When they have been destroyed by the constant attachment to the Self, the Ātman clearly manifests Itself of Its own accord.
Verse no. 285: So long as even a dream-like perception of the universe and souls persists, do away with thy superimposition [vasanas], O learned man, without the least break.
The synopsis of the above verses is that when all the vasanas are dissolved by abiding as Witness, then follows the collapse of Witness and total dissolution of subject-object duality. After that all separation between oneself and the world vanishes. Thus, Vivekachudamani says:
Verse no. 369: Restrain speech in the Mind, and restrain Mind in the Intellect; this again restrain in the Witness of Intellect, and merging that also in the Infinite Absolute Self, attain to supreme Peace.
Udasinata and Shankara
From the verses I quoted from Vivekachudamani above, the program for total liberation, complete ending of subject-object duality is clear: abide as Witness till all vasanas dissolve. It’s clear that a Jnani is a person who has realized himself as Self/Witness. Now what does it mean to stand as Witness? Standing as Witness sounds like some action, albeit a very subtle one. If the Jnani is a person who already knows himself/herself as a Witness, from where does the need arise to give a further injunction like “Stand as Witness?” Well, the problem is that till the vasanas are operative, they are going to constantly create agitations of desires in a Jnani’s mind and suffering. They extrovert his mind towards objects because he still perceives himself and objects as two different entities. His perception is still dualistic. Only when all the vasanas end will his perception become absolutely non-dual. Thus, a Jnani has to withstand the force of the vasanas which are much more powerful than his Self Knowledge. Shankara admits to this difficult in his commentary to the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad:
Verse 1.4.7: It is true, but nevertheless, since the resultant of past actions [vasanas/prarabdha karma] that led to the formation of the present body must produce definite results, speech, mind and the body are bound to work even after the highest realisation, for actions that have begun to bear fruit are stronger than knowledge; as for instance an arrow that has been let fly continues its course for some time. Hence the operation of knowledge, being weaker than they, (is liable to be interrupted by them and) becomes only a possible alternative. Therefore there is need to regulate the train- of remembrance of the knowledge of the Self by having recourse to means such as renunciation and dispassion.
Thus standing as Witness or “to regulate the train- of remembrance of the knowledge of the Self”, according to Shankara requires the auxiliary support of two more dispositions: renunciation and dispassion. In fact Shankara’s great insistence on these two dispositions for full ripening of knowledge comes out most abundantly in his commentary to another verse of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad:
Verse 3.5.1: Since the ancient Brāhmaṇas, knowing this Self as naturally different from the means and result of an action, renounced all desires, which are such means and results, and led a mendicant life, giving up work producing visible and invisible results, together with its means, therefore to this day the knower of Brahman, having known all about scholarship or this knowledge of the Self from the teacher and the Śrutis—having fully mastered it—should renounce desires. This is the culmination of that scholarship, for it comes with the elimination of desires, and is contradictory to them. Since scholarship regarding the Self cannot come without the elimination of desires, therefore the renunciation of these is automatically enjoined by the knowledge of the Self. This is emphasized by the use of the suffix ‘ktvāc’ in the passage in question, as referring to the same individual who has the knowledge of the Self. Therefore, the knower of Brahman, after renouncing desires, should try to live upon that strength which comes of knowledge. Those others who are ignorant of the Self derive their strength from the means and results of actions. The knower of Brahman avoids that and resorts simply to that strength which comes of the knowledge of the Self, which is naturally different from the means and results of an action. When he does this, his organs have no more power to drag him down to the objects of desire. It is only the fool without the strength of knowledge, who is attracted by his organs to desires concerning objects, visible or invisible. Strength is the total elimination of the vision of objects by Self-knowledge; hence the knower of Brahman should try to live upon that strength. As another Śruti puts it, ‘Through the Self one attains strength’ (Ke. II. 4); also, ‘This Self is unattainable by the weak’ (Mu. III. ii. 4). Having known all about this strength as well as scholarship, he becomes meditative, in other words, a Yogin. What a knower of Brahman should do is to eliminate all ideas of the non-Self; doing this he accomplishes his task and becomes a Yogin. After having known all about scholarship and strength, which respectively mean Self-knowledge and the elimination of ideas of the non-Self, he knows all about meditativeness too—which is the culminating result of the latter—and its opposite, and becomes a knower of Brahman, or accomplishes his task: he attains the conviction that all is Brahman. Because he has reached the goal, therefore he is a Brāhmaṇa, a knower of Brahman; for then his status as a knower of Brahman.
Renunciation implies giving up worldly actions and dispassion implies giving up desires. Both are interrelated as one strengthens the other. In the above quote Shankara minces no words in saying that just Self Knowledge in itself is not going to lead a Jnani to total end of suffering or complete destruction of subject-object duality. I have combined these two dispositions into a single word called Udasinata: Impartiality/High Indifference to Dualities of desire and aversion. I did this to account for the life of householders. If we take up Shankara’s line of thinking literally, moksha/freedom is only for ascetics/renunciates: householders are effectively debarred from it. This, of course, is the case for some paths like Jainism. However, the Bhagavad Gita, the epitome of Smrti literature of Advaita makes it clear that moksha is available for householders too, provided they have something called inner renunciation and dispassion. This inner renunciation and dispassion, to me, is expressed in the Witness attitude of Udasinata. The Bhagavad Gita calls this mental renunciation as Sarva Karma Sannyasa, and it happens only when has Self Knowledge and understood oneself as Witness. Udasinata is a means by which one can abide in Sarva Karma Sannyasa
Udasinata in Bhagavad Gita: Making the End as the Means
The word Udasinta occurs in the Bhagavad Gita in Verse 12.16. It is sandwiched between a set of verses discussing the set of virtues needed to be practised by a Jnani for full fructification of his knowledge into non-dual experience, starting from verse 12.12:
Verse 12.12: Knowledge is surely superior to practice; meditation surpasses knowledge. The renunciation of the results of works (excels) meditation. From renunciation, Peace follows immediately.
Shankara’s Commentary for Verse 12.12
Objection: From what similarity does the eulogy follow?
Reply: In the verse, ‘When all desires clinging to one’s heart fall off’ (Ka, 2.3.14), it has been stated that Immortality results from the rejection of all desires. That is well known. And ‘all desires’ means the ‘result of all rites and duties enjoined in the Vedas and Smṛtis’. From the renunciation of these, Peace surely comes immediately to the enlightened man who is steadfast in Knowledge.
There is a similarity between renunciation of all desires and renunciation of the results of actions by an unenlightened person. Hence, on account of that similarity this eulogy of renunciation of the results of all actions is meant for rousing interest.
Therefore, with the idea, ‘I shall speak of the group of virtues (as stated in), “He who is not hateful towards any creature,” etc. which are the direct means to Immortality, to those monks who meditate on the Immutable, who are steadfast in full enlightenment and have given up all desires,’ the Lord proceeds:
The above verse along with its commentary is the key to unlock the way of full enlightenment. Once again, in these words, we are made to understand that just the Witness stage or Self Knowledge is not full enlightenment. The desires have to be dropped, and the desires can be dropped only by cultivation of virtues which are going to be enumerated in the following verses. An interesting thing one notes in Shankara’s commentary is the lines, “There is a similarity between renunciation of all desires and renunciation of the results of actions by an unenlightened person. Hence, on account of that similarity this eulogy of renunciation of the results of all actions is meant for rousing interest.” What is he trying to say here? Well, he is trying to say that whatever virtues are going to be mentioned in the following verses by Krishna, they are effortlessly found in a person with full-blown enlightenment. Thus, if we aspire for enlightenment we need to emulate these virtues. Why? Are we cheating in doing so? No. What Shankara is trying to say is that by making the ends the means, we are making the path easier and more direct. It has to be noted here that this pursuit of virtues is of a totally different import than what we follow conventionally in society. In society, we follow virtues to procure the three impermanent goals of samsara: dharma (fufilling duties), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure). The purpose of following virtues in this case is for permanent Moksha/Nirvana.
Following are the verses in Bhagavad Gita enlisting virtues that lead to Moksha:
- Verse 12.13: He who is not hateful towards any creature, who is friendly and compassionate, who has no idea of ‘mine’ and the idea of egoism, who is the same under sorrow and happiness, who is forgiving;
- Verse 12.14: He who is ever content, who is a yogī, who has self-control, who has firm conviction, who has dedicated his mind and intellect to Me—he who is such a devotee of Mine is dear to Me.
- Verse 12.15: He, too, owing to whom the world is not disturbed, and who is not disturbed by the world, who is free from joy, impatience, fear and anxiety, is dear to Me.
anapekṣhaḥ śhuchir dakṣha udāsīno gata-vyathaḥ
sarvārambha-parityāgī yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ ||12.16||
Verse 12.16: He who has no desires, who is pure, who is dextrous, who is impartial, who is free from fear, who has renounced every undertaking—he who is (such) a devotee of Mine is dear to Me.
Verse 12.17: He who does not rejoice, does not fret, does not lament, does not hanker; who gives up good and bad, who is filled with devotion—he is dear to Me.
Verse 12.18: He who is the same towards friend and foe, and so also in honour and dishonour; who is the same under cold, heat, happiness and sorrow, who is free from attachment to everything;
Verse 12.19: The person to whom denunciation and praise are the same, who is silent, content with anything, homeless, steady-minded, and full of devotion is dear to Me.
In my opinion all the above virtues can be bundled into a single Witness attitude called Udasinata/Impartiality/High Indifference. The word occurs in verse 12.16, which I have also quoted in Sanskrit. What needs to be borne in mind is that this impartiality is virtuous. From the above verses it is clear that the virtue which is being spoken of is not in a very active sense, but it is quite passive. The accent is not so much on doing good as it is on not doing harm to anyone. As Bhagavad Gita mentions in verse 12.17, the Jnani gives up good and bad. This is so because we are talking of a Jnani who is not very actively involved in the affairs of the world but one who has retired to relative seclusion and solitude to perfect his knowledge. Such a person may be a householder or a renunciate. Vivekachudamani says:
Verse 369: Living in solitude serves to control the sense-organs, control of the senses helps to control the mind, through control of the mind egoism is destroyed; and this again gives the Yogi an unbroken realisation of the Bliss of Brahman. Therefore the man of reflection should always strive only to control the mind.
By “control of mind” here, Vivekauchudamani is of course referring to its method of abiding as Witness in verses 267 and 269 quoted above. Thus, the set of virtues enlisted by Bhagavad Gita to be practised by a Jnani, bundled by me under the term Udasinata are actually meant to create serenity in the life of a Jnani who has the stupendous task of dissolving his vasanas. It needs to be understood that Udasinata can be practised at a very mature stage in the life of a practitioner because otherwise it would lead to suppression rather than liberation. Not only should the seeker have reached the Witness stage/gained Self Knowledge but he/she should also have exhausted a lot of wordly vasanas post Witness stage through the practice of Titiksha/endurance I mentioned in Part 1 of this article series. Even after having started the practice of Udasinta, even the advanced practitioner shall find himself slipping from this position, and he has to climb back the ladder of Udasinata through Titiksha several times, till he is firmly seated in Udasinata. Taken to the end, Udasinta shall result in complete destruction of all vasanas and total destruction of subject-object duality.
Udasinata in Vivekachudamani: The End
Not only is Udasinata the means but also the ends. One shall remember in the discussion of Bhagavad Gita verses above that we were taking up the ends as the means. Thus, the means should result in the same end. Speaking about the characteristics of complete liberation-in- life/Jivanmukti or total eradication of subject-object duality, Vivekachudamani mentions the word Udasinata in two verses:
dehendriyādau kartavye mamāhaṃbhāvavarjitaḥ |
audāsīnyena yastiṣṭhetsa jīvanmuktalakṣaṇaḥ || 437 ||
“Verse 437: Having no idea of “I” and “mine” with regard to the body, sense organs etc. nor to duties, living in an attitude of indifference —-this is the indication of a Jivanmukta”
atītānanusandhānaṃ bhaviṣyadavicāraṇam |
audāsīnyamapi prāptaṃ jīvanmuktasya lakṣaṇam || 433 ||
“Verse 433. Not dwelling on enjoyments of the past, taking no thought for the future and looking with indifference upon the present, are characteristics of one liberated-in-life.“
Udasinata vs Titiksha
Since we talked about abiding as Witness even in the Titiksha stage in Part 1: How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 1/3 – Titiksha/Endurance how is Udasinata different from Titiksha?
Titiksha/endurance is more of the stance of a warrior. Udasinata/high indifference is more a stance of a sage, even when both refer to a householder in my treatment. Titiksha is an amoral stage whereas Udasinata is associated with the practice of virtue. Titiksha uproots the last set of vasanas that involve us in worldly projects and is often accompanied by high tension drama. It is often the most painful stage for a Jnani. Udasinata uproots much subtler vasanas that can be done only in total outer silence. The lifestyle required for this is of less action, solitude and seclusion.
Udasinata literally means “being, seated above”. If Titiksha can be thought of as a lateral movement, or movement, or movement at the same level as the impact of the world, Udasinata implies a level of ascent. It has more to do with the mental element in us. It is this that gives us the freedom to apply an action of indifference upon the movements in our life. It can neutralize the conventions and preferences with which the shocks of life come to us. Our mind plays an important part in giving us interpretive values to our experience; and the way in which we can utilize the mind as an instrument to bring indifference to the dualities of our reactions, both in mind and in life, is an aspect of Udasinata. To the Self/Witness, the structure of our phenomenal lives and their experiences is a representation only, from which mind can withdraw or which it can inhabit in freedom.
The Three Stages of Udasinata: Aurobindo
In his book, “Synthesis of Yoga”, Aurobindo has given a compelling description of three stages of Udasinata in his inimitable language with its splendid grasp on psychological nances and subtleties. I am quoting it here, and as per me, it provides a fitting summary as well end to this article.
SoY, Page 712
The second way is an attitude of impartial indifference [Udasinata]. Its method is to reject at once the attraction or the repulsion of things, to cultivate for them a luminous impassivity, an inhibiting rejection, a habit of dissociation and desuetude. This attitude reposes less on the will, though will is always necessary, than on the [Self] knowledge. It is an attitude which regards these passions of the mind as things born of the illusion of the outward mentality or inferior movements unworthy of the calm truth of the single and ‘equal spirit or a vital and emotional disturbance to be rejected by the tranquil observing will and dispassionate intelligence of the sage. It puts away desire from the mind, discards the ego which attributes these dual values to things, and replaces desire by an impartial and indifferent peace and ego by the pure Self which is not troubled, excited or unhinged by the impacts of the world. And not only is the emotional mind quieted, but the intellectual being also rejects the thoughts of the ignorance and rises beyond the interests of an inferior knowledge to the one truth that is eternal and without change. This way too develops three results or powers by which it ascends to peace.
First, it is found that the mind is voluntarily bound by the petty joys and troubles of life and that in reality these can have no inner hold on it, if the soul simply chooses to cast off its habit of helpless determination by external and transient things. Secondly, it is found that here too a division can be made, a psychological partition between the lower or outward mind still subservient to the old habitual touches and the higher reason and
SoY, Page 713
will which stand back to live in the indifferent calm of the spirit. There grows on us, in other words, an inner separate calm which watches the commotion of the lower members without taking part in it or giving it any sanction. At first the higher reason and will may be often clouded, invaded, the mind carried away by the incitation of the lower members, but eventually this calm becomes inexpugnable, permanent, not to be shaken by the most violent touches, na dubkbena gurunapi vicalyate. This inner soul of calm regards the trouble of the outer mind with a detached superiority or a passing uninvolved indulgence such as might be given to the trivial joys and griefs of a child, it does not regard them as its own or as reposing on any permanent reality.
And, finally, the outer mind too accepts by degrees this calm and indifferent serenity; it ceases to be attracted by the things that attracted it or troubled by the griefs and pains to which it had the habit of attaching an unreal importance. Thus, the third power comes, an all-pervading power of wide tranquillity and peace, a bliss of release from the siege of our imposed fantastic self-torturing nature, the deep undisturbed exceeding happiness of the touch of the eternal and infinite replacing by its permanence the strife and turmoil of impermanent things, brahmasarisparsam atyantari sukham asnute. The soul is fixed in the delight of the self, atmaratih, in the single and infinite Ananda [Bliss]of the spirit [Brahman]and hunts no more after outward touches and their griefs and pleasures. It observes the world only as the spectator of a play or action in which it is no longer compelled to participate.