Tag Archives: brahman-realization

Realization of Brahman and the Individual Self

Question: In Siddhānta-ratnam (1.33) Śrī Baladeva says:

The conclusion here is this—jñāna (knowledge) is a synonym of the words vidyā and vedana, and it is twofold. One kind is in the form of realization of the meaning of the words tat and tvam in the sentence tat tvam asi (“you are that”), and it is like an unblinking glance. The other kind is in a variegated form of devotion, and it is like a side-glance. By meditating on the pure meaning of the word tvam, although a jīva attains the spiritual world, being devoid of the fortune of having the Supreme Lord’s favor, its liberation is characterized by isolation, just like a wife given up by her husband. As stated by the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad (4.4.12): ātmānaṁ ced vijānīyād ayam asmīti pūruṣaḥ kim icchan kasya kāmāya śarīram anusañjvaret, “If the living entity knows its own self in this way—”I am this,” then desiring which object and to fulfil which desire would one mortify the body?”

Do nirvikalpa-samādhi, kaivalyam (brahmānubhavam), and jīvātmānubhavam refer to the same thing? If they differ, please explain how they differ

Answer: First of all, we can understand the difference from the word meaning itself. Brahmānubhavam means realization of Brahman, while jīvātmānubhavam means realization of the jivātmā or the individual self. From the Advaitavāda point of view (compared to an “unblinking glance” in Siddhānta-ratnam, 1.33), there is no difference between these two types of realizations because according to Advaitavāda, there is no distinction between the jīva and Brahman. However, from the Vaiṣṇava point of view, the experiences are different. Brahman is unlimited and the jīva is aṇu. Thus, the two experiences are vastly different.

The next difference lies in the process of experience. The experience of Brahman can be had only by identification with It. Brahman is unlimited; thus there is no possibility of the experiencer being separate from the experienced. But such is not the case in realization of the jīvātma. There is another distinction in the experience of Brahman by a devotee. A devotee does not identify with Brahman, so his experience of Brahman is with a distinction, but it is only momentary because one cannot sustain it without identification.

Question: Is self-realization (jīvātmānubhavam) a transient state and thus a prerequisite, leading to Brahman realization (kaivalyam)?

Answer: Again, the reply is twofold depending upon whether it is from the Advaitavāda or Vaiṣṇava point of view. In the case of a devotee, realization of the jīvātma, as well as realization of Brahman, are transitory.

Question: What is the experience of the individual self like in jīvātmānubhavam? Is it void because vṛttis are absent in the jīva-svarūpa or is a vague portion of the svarūpa-śakti manifested in the mind? Does one experience this minute svarūpa-śakti and then later experience Brahman in Brahmānubhavam by identifying with Brahman, thus experiencing a greater bliss (svarūpa-śakti) than in jīvātmānubhavam?

Answer: While deliberating on such questions, it is crucial to consider the path followed by the sādhaka. Experience very much depends on the concept and process followed by the sādhaka. This is in line with Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s statement, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmyaham (Gītā 4.11). Jīvātmānubhavam is similar to the experience of deep sleep—devoid of all vṛttis except a sense of “I”. Brahmānubhavam is the experience of Brahman with a brahmakāravṛtti.

None of these experiences are possible without the grace of the internal potency, bhakti. Even an Advaitavādī has to resort to bhakti (Gītā 14.26)

Question: Are nirvikalpa-samādhi, kaivalyam, and jīvātmānubhavam not positive states of bliss and thus there is no perception of anything other than existence?

Answer: It is a positive state, but very minute bliss compared to bhaktyānanada. The jīva is atomic in size, so realization of the jīvātma gives atomic pleasure. It is almost nil in comparison to the bliss of bhakti, even though existence is a positive state.

Self- and Brahman Realization

Question: How can the jīva be a witness of the mind if the mind is the very instrument through which the jīva’s knowledge capacity is actualized since without being conjoined with the body-mind complex jīva’s potential to apprehend remains dormant or idle?

Answer: All the material experience of the jīva is outside of him, not within. But it is true that in the conditioned state, the jīva cannot experience external objects without the help of the mind and senses. However, no experience is possible without the jīva’s presence in the mind-body complex. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā 13.20, puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānām bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate, “The conscious living being is said to be the cause in the matter of the experiential capacity for happiness and misery.” So the jīva witnesses the mind by identifying with buddhi

Question:  The process of witnessing implies a vṛtti, but ātmā is free of any modification (avikāra). Taking that into consideration, it seems that the process of witnessing is happening in the body. This perhaps does not go along with the principle that the witness is always different from the witnessed, meaning that the body cannot be the witness of itself. But the jīva by itself (without the body) has no capacity to activate its potential to know. Therefore, how does the process of the jīva being the witness of the mind actually work?

Answer: The pure ātmā witnesses by itself. It becomes a witness by identifying with buddhi  and buddhi makes a vṛtti. When it identifies with buddhi, which makes the vṛtti, then it becomes the witness of the buddhi-vṛtti. 

Question:  To support the jīva’s eternal constitutional position of being an integrated part of Paramātmā, Jīva Gosvāmī cites in Anuccheda 37, Gītā 15.7, “The living being in this conditioned world is an eternal integrated part of Me alone.” I wonder why Kṛṣṇa uses the words “in this conditioned world”? If  the jīva is an eternal part, he remains part of Him in the liberated state also. 

Answer: The answer to your question will be clear if you read the complete translation of the verse: 

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke   jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ

manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi   prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The eternal living being is verily a part of Myself. In this material world, it draws [to itself] the senses along with the mind as the sixth sense [which exist] in matter.”

The word jīva-loke is construed with the second part of the verse which says “ in this material world , it is entangled…”. But even if you do not apply this word to second part and apply only to the first part of the verse, then also it does not imply that jīva is not part in his liberated state. If that were the case, then the word sanātana would become meaningless because sanātana is a modifier of aṁśa, or “part.” If the jīva is an eternal part in this loka, then he has to be part after liberation also. Because applying jīva-loke to the first sentence does not give any extra meaning and becomes redundant. Therefore it should be applied to the second part because there are no redundant words in śāstra. 


Question: I was reading in Tattva Sandarbha, Anucheda 48, about the superiority of prema compared to brahmānanda. So, is it correct to think that all the sages who have realized prema and speak about the difference between the two realities, have always experienced Brahman before?

Answer: Yes, that is true. 

Question: Then how can the jīva experience Brahman –  where there’s no mind, no body and no individual consciousness – and then also keep his own individuality?

Answer: The sages realize Brahman while still living in the sādhaka deha (their present body). The realization is in the mind, while still maintaining one’s individuality.

It is not the same as brahma-sāyujya, which is attained after one gives  up one’s sādhaka deha and identifies with Brahman. In such a state, the jīva is without any subtle or gross body.

The sages, however, have their realization while still maintaining a distinction between the self and Brahman.