Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 26 Apr 2004



Shankara the Genius

Shankara is the top most genius in this world. He was the Incarnation of Lord Shiva. He had the third eye, which is the eye of knowledge that always burns with flames. It is said “Jnanam Maheshwaraat icchet”, which means that only Lord Shiva can give spiritual knowledge. During the time of Shankara, there were two types of atheists:

  1. Purva mimaamsakas: They are ritualists, who perform rituals without any analysis and knowledge.
  2. Buddhists: They always argue with logic and say that everything is ‘nothing’ (Shunya Vaada).

Shankara’s aim was to bring these two types of people to the path of theism. Shankara made a big psychological plan. He called even the atheist as Brahman [1]. However He defined Brahman as pure awareness without any quality. Such awareness is present in all the souls, which are present in 84 crore [2]-types of living beings mentioned in the scriptures. The soul is Brahman, whether it is present in human beings, animals, birds, insects or worms. Every soul is basically pure awareness and so it is Brahman. Therefore, whether a soul is born as a divine human being like Shankara or whether it is born as a worm in the drainage (sewage), the soul is Brahman. Whether it is scented water or drainage (sewage) water, water is common in both. The scent and drainage impurities are the good and bad qualities correspondingly. When both the good and bad qualities are removed, only pure water remains. That pure water is the soul or Brahman. Therefore, whether one is born as a divine man or as the worst worm, he can always think, “I am Brahman”. The awareness is common in both the king and beggar. Both can say, “I am Brahman”. But the special qualities like knowledge, courage etc., are associated with the awareness in the king and therefore he became the king. In the beggar, the awareness is associated with qualities like ignorance, fear etc., and therefore he became a beggar. The king is respected and the beggar is neglected. Shankara is the scented water. The atheist is the drainage water. Both are Brahman. But the sandalwood scent and the drainage impurities are not one and the same. If both were one and the same, then scented water and drainage water would be used for the same purpose. Instead of scented water one should sprinkle drainage water on guests invited to a marriage function. A beggar also would be given the same police security as the king is given.

Shankara preached that this awareness (soul) is something, which is already attained by you without any effort or sadhana (siddha vastu or prapta vastu). In both Shankara and the atheist, this awareness is the common substance. Therefore, any living being in this world can shout, “I am Brahman” and nobody can object to it. Don’t feel unhappy even if you are born as worm in drainage because you are that wonderful Brahman! Awareness does not mean happiness. Awareness can be associated either with happiness or with sorrow. Therefore, simply by being Brahman don’t think that you are happy. A person laughing with happiness is Brahman and a person weeping with unhappiness is also Brahman because both have the common awareness. By no effort can you ever lose this awareness and therefore you will always remain Brahman. Even if you are beaten by a belt in hell and are weeping, please don’t forget that you are Brahman. You can weep without any worry because you are Brahman.

You have read so many Shastras and you have done such tedious meditation. Finally you have come to know that you are the awareness (Brahman) that was already present in you even before reading the Shastras (scriptures) and before doing the meditation. You have become what you already were before all this sadhana (effort)! Don’t you think that all your sadhana is a waste and that you did not achieve anything? The drainage water forgets its own impurities and thinks that it is the pure water, which is a component of the drainage water. By such thinking, the impurities are not filtered and the bad odor does not disappear. To remove the impurities, work (filtration) should be done. Then the drainage water can really become pure water. Mere thinking is not work. Filtration is the work.

When the Lord comes in human form, you should serve Him and receive the knowledge from Him along with His grace. Then only are the impurities removed and then only does the water become pure. Then by the association of the Lord (scented water), some scent will enter into you and you also become scented water to a certain extent although you will not be exactly equal to the scented water (God).

The Lord contains all the three qualities (sattvam, rajas and tamas) when He comes in the human form as Datta. The three faces of Datta (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) indicate the three qualities. Brahma is rajas. Vishnu is sattvam. Shiva is tamas. But the Lord is untouched by the three qualities. The three qualities float on Him as a superficial layer. The pure water is not affected and it does not attain the odors of the three qualities. Neither does the pure water have a bad smell nor a good scent. The Lord is like the person wearing a tri-colored shirt. The color of the shirt does not touch Him. But a living being (soul) is different. It is like the scented water or drainage water, which receives a good scent or a bad odor depending on the three qualities. The soul is a homogeneous mixture of the qualities and awareness. You cannot separate the qualities (gunas) and their odors (vasanaas) from the soul by any effort. The soul is the tri-colored shirt itself. Each thread of the shirt is impregnated with the color. Therefore, the Lord alone is capable of wearing the three qualities and at the same time remaining unaffected. He plays with the three qualities in this world. At any time He can get rid of all His qualities in a fraction of second. But the soul cannot get rid of its qualities even if it takes millions of births.

Shankara called the atheist as Brahman and equated him with Himself. The reason for the equation is that both have a common component called awareness, which was named as Brahman by Shankara. Shankara interprets the Vedic statements like “Satyam jnanam” and “Prajnaanam” in such a way that the word jnanam (knowledge) means simple awareness. Actually, the root meaning of jnanam is “Janaati iti jnanam” i.e., that which is awareness is knowledge (jnanam). As long as the root meaning (yoga) is satisfied, there can be no objection to derive such a meaning of a word. But the word jnanam is not used in the sense of awareness in the world. A donkey, a cat etc., also have awareness. But the donkey or cat cannot be called as possessors of jnanam or jnanis. Only a scholar who has some special knowledge is called as jnani. Such usage in the world is called ‘rudhi’. But one can use a word if the yoga (root meaning) is satisfied and the rudhi (usage) can be neglected. Therefore, nobody could oppose Shankara for such a yogic derivation (etymological derivation) of the word jnana. Of course He used such a derivation for a good purpose i.e., to convert an atheist into theist. He did not misuse it.

If you call an atheist merely as a possessor of awareness, he will immediately shout back at you saying, “Don’t I know that I have awareness? Why do you have to tell me that?” But if he is called as a ‘jnani’ (knower; wise one) or ‘Brahman’ he will be pleased and will immediately run towards you. In fact awareness is the greatest subtle substance created in this world. The word Brahman means ‘greatest’. Therefore, Shankara proved by such logic that awareness is Brahman.

Brahman is Not Ishwara

The pure water is Brahman. The pure water that is mixed with scent (perfume) or impurities, and yet not touched by them is the Lord or Ishwara. The soul is also the pure water but is homogeneously mixed with scent and impurities and has become a solution. Therefore, Brahman and the Lord (Ishwara) are different. In the Lord, apart from the three qualities, all the super powers are also present. In addition, He also has the three extraordinary super powers, which are the powers of creating, ruling and destroying this universe. These super powers put together are called Maya (the wondrous, miraculous power of God). One can get the eight miraculous super powers (ashta siddhis) from God but not the above three extraordinary super powers. Therefore, the soul can never become the Lord. Hanuman attained the super power of creation of the world. He became the future Creator but one should remember that the inner form of Hanuman is already Lord Shiva and so it is to be expected.

A king and his servant have awareness in common. Both of them have common good and bad qualities. But the special courage in the battlefield and the administrative power in the court, are special to the king and cannot be attained by the servant. Thus the extraordinary Maya of the Lord is inseparable from Him. Knowledge (jnana) is the inherent quality of the Brahman (awareness) but in the case of the Lord, due to the association with Maya, the knowledge becomes wonderful. The word Maya (maayaa) comes from the root word ‘maya’ which means ‘the most wonderful and inexplicable’. Therefore, the knowledge of the Lord is wonderful and is not possible for any other human being to possess or exhibit. Therefore, such special knowledge is called as prajnanam.

It is true that Shankara said “I am Brahman” but He also said “Shivah kevalo’ham” i.e., “I alone am Lord Shiva”. Ishwara (the Lord) is always associated with Maya. The Gita says the same (Maayinantu Maheshwaram). Brahman is devoid of Maya. Shankara swallowed molten lead as Ishwara; not as Brahman. When Shankara said that He was Brahman, the disciples said that they were Brahman too. Shankara did not object to that. But when Shankara told them that He was Lord Shiva, the disciples said that they were also Lord Shiva. Then He swallowed molten lead and asked them to swallow the same. The disciples were unable to do so and fell at His feet as servants singing His praises “Bhava Shankara deshika me sharanam”. Therefore, He allowed everyone to call oneself as Brahman, which is like a post without salary.

A bill collector collects revenue as a clerk, when the consumer pays the bill, but he cannot issue the order to pay revenue to any consumer. A district collector issues orders for the payment of the revenue. The Veda says that the sun rises due the fear of the Lord (Bhishodeti suryah). But a human being, who calls himself as Brahman, gets a sunstroke and dies if he stands in the hot sun for too long. Scholars should understand the commentary of Shankara along with His demonstration of the experiment of swallowing molten lead. Both the theory and practical experiments are important in science. In fact the practical is more important than theory. The Advaita philosophers do not even mention this experiment. They proudly raise their collars saying that they are Brahman. Let them say the same thing, raising their collars, when they are beaten in hell or when they are born as worms in the drainage. Just by being Brahman, which is only pure awareness, they cannot escape hell or escape being born as worms in the drainage. After digging a big mountain i.e. studying the Vedas and the Shastras, these Advaita philosophers have caught only a small rat!

The heart of Shankara is Ramanuja and Madhva. Therefore, when Ramanuja writes His commentary, He always says “Yaducchyate shaankaraih” i.e., I am condemning what the disciples of Shankara say. He never said that He is condemning what Shankara said. The same Lord Datta incarnated as these three preachers. Shankara was Shiva, Ramanuja was Vishnu, and Madhva was Brahma. All the three are one and the same Guru Datta.

[1] Etymologically, Brahman means that which is the greatest. Hence, it can be used to indicate anything that is the greatest in that category. Pure awareness being greater than inert matter can also be called Brahman. But Brahman is most commonly used to indicate God. So, the atheists thought that Shankara was giving them the status of God.

[2] 1 crore = 10 million.