What does the word Brahman actually mean? Sri Alan Jacobs responds below:
Sages say that it is ‘beyond verbal description’, but as a pointer they postulate Sat Chit Ananda which means Reality-Consciousness-Bliss. Brahman is not a God but an Almighty Great Power. It is the substrate of ‘All and Everything’, which means it contains the whole universe and holds it altogether. Brahman has two agents or adjuncts. First of all is Ishvara or Almighty God and Maya its delusionary power.
At birth Ishvara preordains for each life an individual dream designed for his or her spiritual development, drawing on selected vasanas or latent tendencies from previous lives to suit his purpose. This knowledge was given to Paul Brunton by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and is recorded in the book ‘Conscious Immortality’ published by Ramanasramam *
Maya causes each jiva or soul to superimpose on whatever it perceives in its life dream as a real world, appearing on the screen of consciousness. But it is really all Brahman, unrecognised as such because of the Primal Ignorance, or the jiva’s identification with the egotistic mind and body, which makes he or she believe that they are experiencing a real world, have free will, and are the doers of actions.
So if we see both these adjuncts or agents of Brahman acting together we can truthfully say that all we see as the Seer, the Seeing and the Seen is actually Brahman acting as both the substrate and the power of delusion.
At the point of death, as the Bhagavad Gita points out in Chapter 5 V.26-28, we should contemplate Brahman while fixing our attention on the chakra between the eyebrows. This worship will possibly grant us enlightenment at the end of this life, or else be reborn in a future life into a better spiritual environment. It is easy to surrender to Brahman at the point of death as there is now nothing left to hold onto.
A foremost expression of the way to Liberation is the famed seminal work entitled Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination or Vivekachudamani, a condensation for every man and woman who are not scholastically trained to read his extensive Brahma Sutras, the consolidating text of Advaita Vedanta. Fortunately the Crest Jewel has been freely translated by Sri Bhagavan, with his own wise gloss, and published in his Collected Works, translated into English by Arthur Osborne.
The basis of this teaching is Devotion, Discrimination and Self Enquiry. One soon recognises that the Sad-Guru, Bhagavan, is there within the Spiritual Heart, indicated temporarily for us, until we are pulled to enter the Spiritual Heart in its fullness, on the right side of the chest, as stated in the text Spiritual Instruction, also published in His Collected Works; and as such he guides one gradually and gracefully to eventual liberation. The final key after absorbing the Crest Jewel of Discrimination is to gain the understanding that ‘All Is Brahman inside and out’.
Brahman is the substratum of the ‘All’. As Ramana has previosly stated, the dream of life is preordained by Ishvara or Almighty God, an agent of Brahman, for one’s spiritual development or evolution. Therefore all that is perceived on one’s screen of consciousness awareness is a superimposition on Brahman through its adjunct of Maya, and the knowledge that ‘I Am That’. So one needs to fully realise that all one perceives inside and out is Brahman and ‘I Am That’, with great Faith, persistence and determination until the Inner Guru pulls one fully into the Spiritual Heart or the Self, which leads to Liberation, when he deems it is safe and ready to do so. This method is clearly stated on Page 46 and 47 of Ramana’s great translation of the Crest Jewel of Discrimination in his Collected Works, which explains the Jiva’s whole dilemma and how to gain the final solution of Self Realisation. He writes as follows ‘All this that appears as separate names and forms is Brahman itself, this view must be held to at all times and places and in all states etc’. On page 57 he continues ‘Do not differentiate between Self and Brahman or between world and Brahman. On the authority of the Vedas realise “I am Brahman”.
In a beautiful short and small book entitled ‘The Essence Of the Ribhu Gita by N.R. Krishnamoorthi Aiyer published by Ramanashramam there are many statements taken from this great Gospel to emphasise this instruction. For example, on P.38 no.69 we read ‘By the persistent and continued bhavana of ‘I am the Brahma-Self all thoughts and feelings of differentiation of Self and non-Self will drop off and permanent abidance in Brahman Self will be achieved’.
Thus the poor suffering jiva or soul has fallen into samsara, the sad dream of life and its repetitive cycle of births and rebirth, because out of primal ignorance it has identified with the body mind egotism, which it believes to be the Self.
This is a gross error and to be freed from this prison house of samsara, one needs to recover one’s original Self of Reality, Pure Awareness and Bliss, which is Brahman, but ‘That’ is veiled by the subconscious latent tendencies acquired through this life and previous lives.
So we see that the first essential step is to make an inner or outer acquaintance with a Jnani Guru, such as Sri Ramana Maharsh, who will teach us the principles of Advaita Vedanta, and the necessary practices for the removal of the latent tendencies or vasanas which occlude the Real Self, and then pull one into the Spiritual Heart or Self.
The basis of this teaching, as already stated is Devotion, Discrimination and Self Enquiry. He guides one gradually and gracefully to eventual Self Realisation after our intense effort in Self Enquiry. A sound method of Self Enquiry is given in the book the ‘Technique of Maha Yoga’ by N.R. Narayana Aiyer also published by Ramanashramam.
The final key after fully absorbing the Crest Jewel is to reach the conviction that ‘All is Brahman’ inside and out. Moreover on Page 46 of his translation Bhagavan writes ‘All this that appears as separate names and forms is Brahman itself, this view must be held to at all times and places and in all states etc.’ On P.57 he continues ‘Do not differentiate between Self and Brahman or between world and Brahman. On the authority of the Vedas realise ‘I am Brahman’.
On p.17 he writes that Liberation is not to be achieved through endless cycles of time by reading the scriptures or worshiping the Gods or by anything else than knowledge of the unity of Brahman and Atman.
Also stated poetically in the Ribhu Gita itself we read in Ch 27 V 33.
‘By the conviction that all is Brahman,
The misapprehension that this world and others will disappear.
Hence, son! Reaching the deep steadfast awareness
That all is that Brahman and That Am I,
And devoid of any differences,
Be steeped in serenity’
Need anymore more be said?
*Paul Brunton , Conscious Immortality. P.135. One portion of this quotation was inadvertently left out of the published version. This quotation given in Be As You Are on P.218 by David Godman is taken directly from the manuscript of this book.