DICHOTOMY – A PRODIGIOUS PARADOX
By Dr. N. V. Kulkarni
Genesis of Mukti
Shri Bhavusaheb Maharaj as well as Shri Amburao Maharaj, during their exposition on Dasbodh 8.7.18 and 15.10.16 elucidated that
- Before initiating a disciple, Sadguru separates the disciple’s ‘Atma’ from his body for perceiving and then only “Nama” is imparted to the disciple. Verily this is ‘sadgati’ – moksha as of now.
- The ‘Atman’ thus separated is in the tiny form of a monad (sesame seed). The disciple with his ascending efforts of meditation has to perceive thus removed ‘atman’ to grow and finally culminate in his own form and experience that the atma rupa is verily his thereby confirming to himself that he has been liberated completely1.
Separation of Atman
This separation of atman from the human body of the disciple is necessary because both are organically mixed.
Prof Ranade states “This organic connection between the soul and the body might well be seen in the appearance of heat lingering in the body-cells after the soul has deserted and the man is dead”2.
Cardinal Function of the Spiritual Teacher
Further, this separation of the “Atman” from the body is the cardinal function of a Sadguru.
Prof Ranade states “The Guru separates Vyavahara from Parmartha, matter from spirit, just as the swan separates water from milk. This is the principal function which a spiritual teacher performs. Not every bird is capable of performing this miraculous function. In the same manner, not every so called guru can separate matter from spirit for the upliftment of his disciple”3.
Measure of own’s spiritual development
It is needless to point out that the disciple has to pursue the spiritual path opened to him after his initiation by the spiritual teacher
- To the very end of his life
- Without losing a single moment
- With a fully devotional attitude making one’s physiological breath the vehicle of his love to God.
As Prof Ranade puts forth “Finally, after having walked on the pathway for a longtime, and through travails and turmoil of body and mind, of nature and society, (one) can envisage to (oneself) certain landmarks, certain lamp-posts which will help (him) to walk with courage and confidence on the pathway to God….”4.
The Lamp Posts
These are mystical experiences of which the disciple is the recipient. Mystical experiences resemble sense experience, but really they are super sensuous. We have experience similar to visual, auditory, olfactory and tactical or gustatory experiences.” The infusion of God in the mind of man, leads to super sensuous experience as per Prof. Ranade, “– When we shut all sensory organs to outer perceptions, then by meditation and grace, internal senses open. A vast panorama of supersensuous experience is revealed – – – 5“
Liberation’s equivalence with mystical experience
Quoting Prof Ranade, “Whatever we spiritually visualize is ourselves. According to the mystical law, whatever a mystic perceives at any time by any form of sense corresponds exactly to the stage of development of his own spiritual temper and capacity – – – what a mystic sees is, really, what he is, and that his spiritual status is to be measured by what he is able to see – – – 6‘
Or else “ – – In that case, we may say that the pitch and power of the singing may be even regarded as an index to his (disciple’s) own concentration and realization – – – 7“
And further “ – – until a man is able to see his own form by the grace of his spiritual teacher, he may not be regarded as having attained to the highest mystical experience. – – 8”
The Acme of mystic realization
In Maitri Upanishad, sage Maitri who imparted to his disciple the highest secret of the Upanishads as at the acme of spiritual experience, the mystic sees his own form in a flood of supreme light arising from within himself, which indeed constitutes the realization of the immortal and fearless Atman. 9
Having stated above “—then by meditation and grace, internal senses open —-“ a question may well be posed at this juncture “to whom these inner senses belong?” Certainly not to one’s body. Then to whom?
We quote The Ven Louis du Pont, in a paragraph entitled: “On the extraordinary forms and diverse manners in which God communicates himself in mental prayer”.
“As the body has its five exterior senses, with which it perceives the visible and delectable things of this life, and makes experience of them, so the spirit, with its faculties of understanding and will, has five interior acts corresponding to these senses, which we call seeing, hearing, smelling, testing and touching spiritually, with which it perceives the invisible and delectable things of Almighty God and makes experiences of them, from which springs the experimental knowledge of God —10“
Succinctly as expatiated by Prof. Ranade “—The self is endowed with the Supreme power of dichotomizing itself —” i.e. both into subject and object and make knowledge.—11
a) Philosophy of Dichotomy
Since “It is, indeed, the eternal cry of the human soul for rest, the insatiable longing of a being wherein infinite ideals are fettered and cramped by a miserable actuality —“, hence “— (it is) of the aspiration of the soul to cease altogether from self and to be at once with God—12“
We may add a few more
- i) – only if the self is real can it hope to know Reality
- ii) –“both (prayer/name) that which forms and that which utters it are the same thing” and extending this we can say “Both that which utters and that which hears it are the same thing —“
iii) “— that which can be thought is the same that which can be —“ – Parmenides
- iv) “—in the immaterial knowledge and the known are the same —“ Plotinus
- v) “ — making that in us which thinks unto the object of its thought —“ Plato.
Coming to the classical commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita we have Madhava who in his commentary shows how the entire section (XIII, 13 – 18) establishes the identity of the Jneya as the Supreme Being while expatiating on its majesty. Further he states that Jneyam cannot mean ‘which is to be known by “another” – for the Gita itself says (X – 15) that God is knowable as He is only by Himself and not by any others. So the proper meaning of the word “Jneyam” would be that he knows Himself. (Svajneyam) —13
b) Psychology of Dichotomy:
During introspective meditation, it is important to remember here as Prof Ranade expatiates that “Introspection is a psychological process corresponding to Self-consciousness as a metaphysical reality. Self consciousness is possible only through the process of introspection. The Self is endowed with the supreme power of dichotomizing himself. The self can divide himself into the knower and the known”, “—the knowledge, invocation, and repetition of a deity’s name (the name imparted by the spiritual teacher — author) constitutes in itself an actual, if mystic union with the deity named.” –14
We may also add “In supernatural (super sensuous) knowledge, (T)he eye of the understanding (Soul’s inner sense) which sees the Divine, is the spark in the centre at the soul where lies the Divine image (cf God made man in his own image – Bible). In this kind of cognition the subject must be absolutely passive; its thoughts must be as still as if it were dead. Just as in natural knowledge the object does not cooperate, so in supernatural knowledge the subject does not cooperate. Yet this supernatural knowledge does not come from without (Prof. Ranade calls this as central initiation). The spirit and word of God are within us. God is Himself the eye and the light in the soul, as well as the object which the eye sees by this light. Supernatural knowledge from within flows outwards, and in this way resembles natural knowledge. (super sensuous knowledge is as if through the senses, but not through the senses). But since God is both the eye that sees and the object which it sees, it is not we who know God, so much as God who knows Himself in us —15
c) Necessity of Spiritual Experience:
Prof Ranade remarks elsewhere “Mystical phenomena are a necessary accompaniment of mystical life”. Further, “If we follow a definite path, it will lead to necessary consequences, therefore, if we follow the spiritual path its necessary effect, namely, spiritual experience will be a logical consequence.”
It is worthwhile to view Kant’s elucidation about “Necessity”.
Kant says necessity is nothing other than the existence that is given by possibility itself and that the schema (essential form) of necessity is the existence of an object all times.
Further Kant adds “Likewise, if you remove from your empirical concept of every object, whether corporeal or incorporeal, all those properties of which experiences teach you, you could still not take from it that by means of which you think of it as a substance or as dependant on a substance (even through this concept contains more determination (the process of deciding) than that of an object in general). Thus convinced by the necessity with which this concept presses itself on you, you must concede that it has its seat in your faculty of cognition a – priori.”16
This is true in case of cognition of a – priori determined substance. However empirical cognitions are a posterior i.e. they originate from substance whose sources are a posteriori in experience.
d) Limits of Dichotomy
We have seen the acme of spiritual realisation to be the mystic’s visualization of his own form, which is liberation here and now.
Thereafter and otherwise
This is the end of mystic’s perusal goal. But thereafter and otherwise a panorama of mystical experiences are met with which cannot be explained as arising out of dichotomy. We have to search elsewhere for an answer. We will first enumerate some such experiences and then probe for a possible and plausible answer.
The great Transfiguration which Lord Krishna underwent as described in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, a theme on which Jnaneshvara dwelt upon and brought out into relief the vision of the Universal Atman.
We quote “Arjuna’s mind sank in wonder; his intellect and senses ceased to operate; in wonder he began to see, and the four-handed form which he had seen before him he now saw all about him; he shut his eyes and saw the form of Krishna; he opened his eyes and saw the vision of the Universal Atman. The luster of the Universal Atman was so great, the very hosts of heaven were so terrified at that great prospect, Arjuna felt so powerless before the grand power of the Almighty, that he felt as if his very soul was passing out of his body.” It was a spectacle of great terror, astonishment, and novelty. Unable to see the infinite luster of that form, Arjuna prayed to Him: his mind was a mountain of sins; he asked forgiveness of God, beseeching Him to excuse any derelictions which he may have committed. As when a river brings all kinds of dross to an ocean, does not the ocean receive them all? “What words I may have spoken through love or mistake, in what way I may have offended against Thy great power, forgive me all, O God,” said Arjuna. Arjuna fell prostrate before that great Vision, and became full of noble sentiments. His throat was choked, and he besought Him to take him out of the ocean of sins. Does not the father forgive the faults of the son, he asked; does not a friend draw a veil over the derelictions of his companion?17
Krishna, in his transfigured form, had hitherto held silence; but when he saw Arjuna terrified in the extreme, he said to him that it was wonderful that he should show such a great lack of courage. “Thou art ignorant of the great boon that I have conferred on thee by showing thee this vision,” said Krishna, “and thou art prattling like a terror-stricken man …… This infinite form of mine, from which all incarnations emanate, has never been hitherto heard or seen by anybody except thee ….. Thou hast come upon an ocean of nectar, and art afraid of being drowned in it; thou hast seen a mountain of gold, and sayest that thou dost not want such a great treasure; thou hast had the wish-jewel in thy hands, and art throwing it because thou feelest it to be a burden; thou art turning away the wish-cow out of doors, because thou canst not feed her; ….. even though this form might be terrific to look at, pin thy faith to this, as a miser keeps his thoughts round his buried treasure;….thou art afraid because thou hast never seen this form before; but forget not to exchange love for fear.” So saying, Krishna, for fear of taxing Arjuna’s patience too much, took on the human form again.17
Jnaneshwara describes the Absolute thus : “that which is at once inside and outside; which is far and near; beside which there is no second;….to whose perpetual light, there is no flicker; …..which is immaculate in the beginning, the middle, and the end of existence; like the sky, which is the same with itself in the morning, mid-day, and the evening; which itself takes on the names of the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer; which may be called the Great Void when the qualities have become annihilated; which illuminates fire; which inspires the moon; which is the eye of the sun; which has its hands everywhere, because there is nothing outside, which is not occupied by it; which has its feet everywhere, because there is no place that is not filled by it; which has its eyes everywhere, because to it all things are always present; which stands at the head of all; ….which has its face everywhere, because it enjoys all things; and which, in spite of all these things, may be said to have neither hands nor eyes nor feet and the rest; but which, because it must be somehow characterized, may be called by these names, just as when a void is to be shown, it is shown in the form of a dot.”17
b) Vision of other Saints
Prof Ranade had a vision of sage Bhirigu and Zaratrushta founder of Parsi Religion.
The vision of a huge column of light seen by Paul on the way to Damascus which brought about his conversion and the words he heard “Saul , Saul , why are you persecuting me?” which came from the mouth of Jesus.
In addition the great transfiguration undergone by Jesus Christ and Prof. Ranade’s transfiguration as envisaged by Mrs. Ranade and other disciples can be added to the above list.
c) A Huge Column of Light
Once in 1908, Sri Gurudev, Prof. Wodehouse, Sri Bhadabhade, Sri Vishnupant Karandikar and Prof. Paranjape were discussing in the bungalow of Prof. Wodehouse, about Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. At that time, Gurudev once casually peeped out of the window in front of him which was on the side of Alandi of Jnanesvar. Just then, he happened to see a huge column of light extending high up midway into the sky above. At once he automatically got up from his chair. And when he got up, all the others also automatically stood up, without any intimation from anybody. All of them could also see that light. And they were looking at it for two or three minutes. Thereafter the light gradually became more and more faint and ultimately disappeared. Prof. Wodehouse then remarked: “Today my spiritual life began.”
About the genesis of this vision Sri Gurudev said :”I was not meditating then for a long time. But the quality of my heart had improved a good deal. The incarceration of Tilak, the turbulent political atmosphere, etc. had agitated the heart. This must have caused the vision.”18
d) Sudarsana –Spiritual Wheel
Sri Gurudev has graphically described the spiritual wheel in one of his works. A glance at the extract of that description given below will easily convince any one that it cannot but be the description of an eye-witness.
“This wheel is a matter of experience and not of description. As in the case of a fire-fly its light serves to terrify, to protect and to attract, in the case of the Mystical Wheel also, we may say, it terrifies, protects and attracts…. It may be described in the shape of one circle or a number of concentric circles with or without spokes. The light with which it is filled, and by means of which it becomes radiant, easily resolves itself into a number of colours, according to the wont of the physical law. The sparkling colors have been described as Abhinava Navarang, as going beyond any description of such symbols as ‘Vibgyor’ … Its sound has been described by Kabir, as the Saint of Umadi told us, Gui Gui Gui bole … As regards its motion, one does not know what to say about it … It moves and it does not move; it is both far and near; it is both inside and outside of man. It is this Mystical Wheel that is at the back of all the wheels that might be constructed by man.”18
e) A Golden Asvattha
Sri Gurudev, one day, came out of his morning meditation, at Allahabad, in an ecstatic mood and asked one of his disciples to read the abhang of Jnanesvar about ‘Golden Asvattha’ and explain the first line of the same which ran like this :
Jayaciya dvari sonyaca pimpala.
“Before whose doorway stands a golden peepal.” The disciple could only give its ordinary meaning. Thereupon Sri Gurudev emphatically declared : “No, that is not its meaning. The Phrase ‘golden peepal’ is not a mere metaphor. It is an actual experience. Where I am actually witnessing in front of my door an Asvattha, shining with a brilliance million times superior to that of gold, how much more brilliant must have been the an Asvattha which Sri Jnanesvar, Sri Tukaram and Sri Bhausaheb Maharaj had witnessed before! It can better be imagined than described. In fact, it cannot be described at all. Its resemblance with gold is more formal than real. Really, no object in the world is analogically fit for being compared with this experience. Gold is a very insignificant material for being compared with the brilliance of the spiritual experience of this form.”18
f) Visions of Deities
When Sri Gurudev was residing in Adhyatma Bhuvan, one day, he began to move around the Bhuvan. Sri Karkhanis who was with him there asked him the reason for his circum-ambulation. Sri Gurudev replied: “Well, I saw today the lustrous form of Sri Sesa moving round my residence. He was shining like anything. Hence I followed him.” He also saw there, one day, Sri Hanuman with a brilliant flame-colored face. Fortunately, his subsequent enquiry revealed that it was the anniversary (jayanti) day of Sri Hanuman.18
g) Cosmic Vision
Sri Gurudev had a grand cosmic vision in 1943, when he was passing in a train by Satna station, between Allahabad and Jabalpur. All of a sudden, he witnessed a sublime vision of cosmic regeneration. It began with the vision of the Cosmic Eye, which gradually developed into this sublime vision. Whenever he referred to this vision, he asked one of his disciples to sing the following Kannada song :
Drstiyolage drsti nintitu.
The Eye stood before the eye.’ “This song,” he said, “is a faithful description of this vision of mine.” Every time the song was sung, he used to explain it in great detail. He has even included this song in his “Pathway to God in Kannada Literature”. His English commentary on this song will throw a flood of light on his present experience. It is given below with a few modifications to suit the present context:
“When the Eye stood before the eye a great phenomenon occurred; the world disappeared. The vision of the Eye before the eye implies an absolute destruction of the sight of the world. When this individual spirit realized its own nature…. I found this Creation full of creative joy, so much so, that I asked : ‘To whom shall I communicate this experience? How is it possible for me to express by word of mouth what beatific joy I feel in the contemplation and realization of the Absolute Spirit?’ Finally after the spiritual realization, I saw a new glory in the world. It seemed as if there was a regeneration or recreation of the world. The whole world, from the earth up to the top of the mountain, seemed full of the immaculate Spirit.”18
Prof Ranade once remarked to Kakasaheb Tulpule “Shri Bhausaheb Maharaj had complete unison with the cosmos and nature. He was their maker. When he abandoned his mortal coil, one can only guess at nature’s howling and frantic dancing then.”
Needless to add that Kakasaheb did not dare to ask the meaning of the statement then nor could he grasp its meaning.
h) Vision of the infinite
Sri Gurudev once told Sri Karkhanis that at Allahabad he had the vision of Infinity within Infinity. What a wonderful experience it must have been! Is it the experience of ‘behad’ of Kabir? Or of ‘nirbayalu’ of the Kannada saints? Who knows? In the absence of actual details, its nature is bound to remain unexplained and therefore unknown.
It is an indisputable fact that all mystical phenomena arise from GRACE, whose reservoir is infinite.
Secondly, all mystical experiences come through the superluminal door of consciousness by the miraculous operation of Grace, in other words they are intuitive. Intuition is a faculty of supersensuous experience which is aroused in us by proper spiritual initiation and practice. Intuition would not deny to mysticism a title to philosophy if intellect requires it, adds Prof. Ranade.
Thirdly, the recipient of the spiritual experience the subject – is his Atman. However in the above quoted experiences it is the Parmatman, the Universal Soul, the Absolute, as the supreme object of the experience that calls whatever you may stand revealed to the subject’s intuitive eye. Though the ways of Almighty are inscrutable, we find in each case some substantive reason on the part of Paramatman for bestowing the experience on the subject. Or cannot it be called divine desire to meet its own counterpart spread and strewn so dexterously as concessions (Grace no doubt) bestowed on the creature? Rudolf Otto states “That God nonetheless admits access to Himself and intimacy with Himself is not a mere matter of course, it is a grace beyond our power to apprehend a prodigious paradox. For instance Lord Krishna had to lift the veil of Maya ignorance from Arjun’s mind and make him to carry out his duties.”19
We leave it to the readers to determine reasons in other cases described above.
- Dashbodh Sudha – P. H. Kulkarni – P.18 & 389
- Pathway to God in Hindi Literature – R. D. Ranade – 2013 – pgs 6 & 61
- ibid – p. 372
- ibid – p. 35
- Critical Constructive Aspects of Prof. R. D. Ranade’s Philosophy – B. R. Kulkarni pgs 151 & 52
- ibid – p. 288
- ibid – p. 433
- ibid – p. 205
- A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy – R. D. Ranade – 1968 p. 253
- The Graces of Interior Prayer – A Poulain S. J., B Herder Books Ltd., USA 1910, p. 101
- ibid – p. 250
- Margaret Smith in Understanding Mysticism ed Richard Woods O. P. Image Books, New York 1980, p. 19
- The Bhagavad Gita and Its Classical Commentaries – Dr. S. K. Bhavani – The Dvaita Studies and Research Foundation, Bangaluru 1995, p. 390
- Christian Mysticism – W. R. Inge, Meridian Books, New York, 1956, P. 390
- ibid – Pgs. 275,76
- Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant, Cambridge University Press, 1998, P.138
- Mysticism in Maharashtra – R. D. Ranade – Motilal Banarsidas Delhi, 1988, Pgs.68-70
- Dr. Ranade’s Life of Light – M. S. Deshpande, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 1963, Pgs. 161 to 167
- The Idea of Holy – Rudolf Otto., Oxford University Press, London, 1952, P. 56