Take the True Inner Pilgrimage
(Vinod Anand)

The Brahmasutra Bhashya of Sankara is an abstruse exposition of his advaitic thought, best summed up in a classic line from the l3hashya: “Brahmn satyamjagat mithya jivo Brahmaivah napara” — Brahmn alone is real, the world is illusory; the individual and the universal soul are one”.

However, it is in the smaller poetic compositions that Sankara puts these abstruse advaitic concepts within easy grasp of the average individual, using everyday references to illustrate the concepts.

The Atmabodha, set in 68 verses, is one such poetic primer of advaita, where Sankara begins by explicitly stating that the Atmabodha will serve as an easy text for those who are desirous of under-standing the notion of liberation and how to equip themselves with the tools of discrimination in the mind.

The second verse gets to the- heart of the matter bluntly. It declares that knowledge alone can be the cause of liberation, just as fire is the direct cause of cooking. This may include the requirement of water; pots and pans, but it is fire that actually makes cooking possible.

Sankara declares that karma or action is powerless to destroy ignorance for “...it is not in conflict with ignorance”. The Self can be known only through knowledge just as light alone can dispel darkness.

Sankara compares jnana abhyasa or the practice of knowledge which purifies by removing ignorance, with the traditional method of purifying muddy water in rural India with kataka-nut powder. Just as the powder sprinkled on the surface of the water forms a film and drags all the impurities to the bottom, leaving pure water on the surface, constant use and practice of knowledge removes the dirt of ignorance. And just as the kataka-nut powder dissolves in the water after doing its work, knowledge, too, disappears after the Self emerges.

He further talks about illusion created by oyster shells scattered along the beach on a moonlit night. We mistake them for silver, only till we recognize them as shells. Similarly, the world of names and forms exists only till Self-knowledge dawns. The phenomenal world exists in the mind of the perceiver alone, and names and forms exist like ornaments. Vishnu, the all-pervading consciousness, is like gold.

Sankara invokes the spirit of the Upanishads by alluding to the well-known definition of Brahmnas that which cannot be defined: “Neti, neti... — ‘Not this, not this...’ The flame of knowledge can only be kindled by constant meditation, which Sankara compares to the act of’ rubbing two pieces of flint or wood to create fire. Meditation is the friction between the metaphorical mind- wood and the ‘Aum’-wood pieces between the movement of the mind and the longing of the soul. (Soul-wood or Aum-wood is what melts arid subsumes aham, ego.)

The story of- Rama is allegorized as Atmarama, who derives satisfaction from the Self alone, having crossed the ocean of delusion to vanquish the mind-beast of ego, ‘just as Rama crossed the ocean to kill Ravana.

In the concluding verses Sankara alludes to the cosmological nature of Brahmn, satchit-ananda or knowledge-existence-bliss: “.All things which can be perceived or heard are Brahmn itself and nothing else...and though atma is reality, it can be perceived only by one who has the eye of wisdom”. Sankara asks us to undertake the true inner pilgrimage to “the shrine of the atma” which will bestow equanimity.

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.