Vedanta is the study of knowledge of the "Self". Here "Self" is the English term used to refer to Atman or Brahman. These texts are the Upanishads, found usually at the end of the Vedas. Hence the term Veda + Anta (end) is "End of the Vedas". An appropriate name actually since Vedanta can be thought as the end of knowledge-the final crest of knowledge beyond which a higher knowledge does nto exist.
There are more than 200 known Upanishads. Some consider 108 of the as important. The principal Upanishads are said to be be 9 in number-there is no consistency on this with some authorities talking about 11 and 13 also.
In Vedanta, we have a term "Adhikari". An Adhikari is one who has the necessary qualifications to undertake the study of Vedanta- just as to undertake an M.Sc course, one must possess a B.Sc, a student of Vedanta must possess the following qualities to become an "Adhikari".
(a) Viveka (discrimination )
(b) Vairagya (Dispassion)
(c) Samadi Shatka Sampatti (Six virtues of the mind -these begin with Sama hence Sama-adi )
(d) Mumuksutvam (desire for liberation)
These are known as the Sadhana Catustyam -the four qualifications for one to undertake the study of the truth (tattva viveka)
Let us take up the Sadhana Catustyam -the four qualifications for an aspirant.
The first is :-
Sankaracharya defines Viveka thus:
nityavastvekaM brahma tadhvyatiriktaM sarvamanityam
That which is beyond time (ie which has no beginning and no end, which is eternal) is only one and is Brahman. Anything not falling under this definition is Anatman –the “Not Self” ie that which has a beginning and an end and is under the sway of time.
This understanding alone is Viveka- the understanding of the difference between the that which is bound by time and that which is beyond time.
Viveka should also be taken to mean disciplined thinking as without the capability of logical analysis, the understanding referred to above cannot be reached.
This is actually the prime qualification for the seeker and is the foundation on which the other three rest. Only one who is able to perceive the distinction between the Eternal and the Not Eternal is capable of understanding Vedanta.
“He who sees this, sees indeed” to paraphrase the Bhagavad Geeta.
This is defined as ईह स्वर्गभोगेषु इच्छाराहित्यम् ।
ie to say Vairagya is the absence of desire for enjoyments here (in this world) or enjoyments in heaven.
This does not, as commonly understood, mean that one should never enjoy oneself or the pleasures of this world. In fact most people who truly possess Vairagya also possess the quality of enjoying every experience that comes their way. A good movie, a good book, a vacation-when these come your way enjoy them for the experiences in this world are meant to be savored.
What Vairagya requires of you is to live in the present moment. Enjoy the moment while it lasts. When it passes, the moment is now the past. To yearn for the experience is to live in the past ( regret for a passed moment) and yearn for the future (Hope). This is attachment and this is what "raga" is. Vairagya is the absence of raga. Vairagya enjoins us to live in the present, enjoying and savoring every experience that life brings to us. It also means that when the experience is over, we should think no more about it, not regret its passing nor yearn for it again.
(iii) The third prescribed qualification is Samaadi-satka-sampati
Samaadi is “Sama + adi” ie to say Sama and others. Satka Sampati is Six fold riches. So the sentence means the six fold riches(qualities) which are sama and others or sama etc.
This is defined as by Sankaracharya as:
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Samo dama uparamastitikShA shraddhA samAdhAnaM cheti.
(These are) Sama, Dama, Uparama, Titiksha, Samadhanam, and Shraddha. Here we have the six qualities listed out. These are further explained now:
(a) What is Sama ?
Sama is restraint or control of the mind. To be understood as a mind which is subservient to the intellect –as opposed to the mind which controls you which is the case with most of us. The monkey mind it is called constantly jumping from thought to thought and refusing to be under a leash.
(b) What is Dama ? –
Control/restraint over the eyes etc (by this is meant the five organs of perception/knowledge ie eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) and the external organs, by which is meant the five organs of action ie hands, feet, mouth, genitals & anus. (As we will see later, these are called the Jnana Indriyas and Karma Indriyas respectively).
Dama is therefore restraint over the organs with which the mind perceives and interacts with the world outside us. What is the reason for why Dama is necessary ? Because Sama is difficult to come by and hence both need to be practiced simultaneously. Obviously if one has perfect Sama, then Dama is superfluous for with the mind in perfect control, the senses are automatically in control.
(c) What is Uparama ?
Svadharma is one’s own duty ie the duty which falls on one due to his or her circumstances of birth and station in life. Anushtanam is performance or carrying out. So Uparama is the performance of one’s own dharma. Interestingly Uparama also means giving up or renouncing.
One interpretation therefore is that in carrying out your svadharma, you are guided by the requirements of the dharma alone and renounce self will. You do actions which are required to be done (which you may in fact notbe wanting to do –hence renunciation of self will) without considering your likes and dislikes.
(d) The fourth quality is Titiksha.
Titiksha itself means patience, forbearance, patience. Sankarachaya defines it as :
Translated as “Patiently putting up with cold, heat, happiness and grief etc.” Which is an elaboration of the dictionary meaning given above and should be taken to mean “acceptance of circumstances as they are” which is a great spiritual virtue. This does not mean that one should not try to change the given situation for the better which is the unfortunately, too often the interpretation given to this quality. Far from having this negative connotation, Titiksha actually means the capacity to accept negative circumstances while they last and at the same time taking the needed positive steps to correct or improve the situation. The full strength and positive aspects of this quality are brought out beautifully in the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
– literally means faith or devotion. Faith in what? This has been explained by Sankaracharya in his definition of Shraddha :-
- guruvedAntavAkyeShu viSvAsa:
Faith in the words of the Guru and in the teachings of the Vedanta is called Shraddha. The faith we talk about here is not a blind faith but faith based on understanding. It is the capacity to realise that there is no reason to disbelieve the words of the Guru or Scriptures. Only with this attitude can one works towards emancipation.
literally means profound absorption or contemplation.
Sankaracharya has defined Samadhanam as under:-
Focussing your mind on one thing. This is easier said than done. If you wish to understand how difficult this is sit back in a comfortable position, close your eyes and try to focus your mind on one thought only –say Om Nama Sivaya. Keep your mind focussed on this mantra and keep repeating it with focus. You will find that the mind constantly wanders away into all sort of thoughts, anything but the chant. Another interesting experiment which illustrates the self will of the mind is to command your mind NOT to think of some object – say a monkey. Now close your eyes and try to think of everything but a monkey. Most people would find the monkey constantly in their thoughts. This illustrates the our weak control (if you can call it that) over the mind.
When the mind can (through regular practice) be kept focussed on one thought only, you are well on your way to success in meditation.
(iv) Having gone through the six parts of Samaadi Sarka Sampatti, let us go to the fourth and last qualification prescribed for the seeker. This is Mumuksutvam.
Mumuksutva is the desire for liberation. Sankaracharya defines this quality as:
-mokSho me bhUyAditIcChA
literally meaning “It is the wish “May I be liberated” . It is a desire which is very strong. If you can imagine how keenly you desire oxygen, when your nostrils are under water and the oxygen in your lungs has run out –desperate is the word- then you begin to understand what is the strength of Mumuksutva.