“Sanatsujatiyam” is a chapter from udyoga parva in Bhagavatam, a well known Indian epic, of the same time period as that of Bhagavat Gita. While Gita is about the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the battle field, Sanatsujatiyam is the teaching of Sage Sanatsujata to Dhrutarashtra, the blind King and the father of Kauravas who are one of the main protagonist of Mahabharata war.
Sanatsujatiyam answers some fundamental philosophical questions that has been in our mind from time immemorial and raised by Dhrutarashtra in this case.
What do we do to go beyond all sorrow and will we be able to look with equanimity upon gain and loss, desire and hate, old age and death, joy and sorrow, hunger and thirst, fear and fearlessness, merit and sin, decline and rise the essential dhwandhas or the duality that are the conflicts of life.
Which are the cause of transmigration and how to attain liberation from these.
Is there death are there is no death.
Who are we. What is “Brahman”? How do we know Brahman which is our essential nature. What do we do to regain our essential self.
The man thinks himself to be body, mind and senses.we are active, doing things constantly trying to avoid pain and enjoy pleasures and result is facing miseries and failure to attain freedom which is the goal of life. We are born and we die again and again continuing this life cycle only each time under different body, name and circumstances. But then question arises. Is there death. Or what is death. Who is the real person behind these names and forms.
what is the knowledge that would make man immortal free from the duality of the world. Can enlightenment be reached and death be conquered by performance of Vedic rituals. Could it be done through combination of ritual and knowledge. Seers are of the view that there is death and no death. How can these contradictory views can be realised.
Who are we and when do we die are some of the questions asked of Sage Sanatsujata and he replies to them as follows.
Who are we
The scriptures say ones real nature is liberation. We are divine beings. We are on vacation in this world. The death happens when we forget that and fall from that state to this life. This forgetting of the natural state is the cause of all our problems in this life and the start of Karmic activities of production, attainment, modification and purification.
Ignorance is the cause of bondage and knowledge is the cause of liberation and we are all deluded because of this sheath of ignorance
The Atma or the soul residing in a person is beyond body and mind and beyond and continues in three states of waking, dream and deep sleep of a person. Since one is Atma there is no birth and death.
Body identification and doership is the cause for miseries of life. The man who is created from water, five elements, has gross body that embodies soul in his heart which is purely consciousness, and wrongly identifies himself with gross body. This body identification creates self-not self concept and that leads to all sorrows, joy, misery and worry again based on his karma. Body identification leads to samsara in other words this circle of life of desire fulfillment, old age, decay and death. The five sense organs, the five organs of action, mind and intellect twelve in all are the cause of externalities and by withdrawing them internally the cause of transmigration is avoided and bliss is attained.
When any activity has to be carried out it has to be done with total detachment, without the feeling of ” I ” am doing it and expectation of result. Thus when mind is pure and free from desire and emotions of anger, greed, jealousy etc self knowledge and realisation happens. If one thinks the body is real and there are these unfulfilled desires at the time of death then the soul carries them along with it and comes back again and again. Hence no liberation from this cycle of life or samsara. When sense objects and desire arising from sense organs are understood to be transient and ephemeral leading to more karma and sorrow and overcome liberation is achieved. Raising above the body level and keeping the mind content and calm which happens when there is no thinking or no mind, or when activities of the mind ceases then path to liberation opens.
The Brahman is that which is beyond cause and effect, all pervasive, beyond the reach of speech and mind that which is present in every being and object in the universe.it is experienced as pure consciousness. The Brahman has no form. It is infinite and not confined into any space and not made up of five elements. It can not be negated and is beyond ignorance. It is subtler than the subtlest and bigger than anything imaginable. It is that from which all in the universe emerges and and at the end time of universe everything merges with it. The entire universe shines because of the light of the Brahman. All the universe is established in it.
The person who is born in this world, the self, is the manifestation of Brahman and the self is a non-dual, infinite consciousness and bliss. The knower of self knows it as Brahman and who knows it becomes immortal.
It is the creator, the supreme being who creates the entire universe out of five elements – fire, air, Earth, water, and ether- in everything and everyone and transmigrates. Who makes him do that and for what purpose and what happens when that action ceases is the play of creation. It is Brahman the being, pure consciousness and bliss.
The Brahman can be attained by truth, rectitude, humility, control of the senses, purity of mind and knowledge and keeping out pride and delusion.
As to the question if one can escape the consequences of sinful acts if he has learnt the scriptures the answer is no and that the fruits of good and bad activities have to be experienced separately and that one does not negates the other. The Brahman can be obtained by tapas which is rigour, penance and austerity. As it is affected the qualities of desire, anger, lust, greed, ignorance, pleasure from sense objects, cruelty, casting aspersions delusion, complaining, worry, covetousness malice, envy and hatred aspirant should avoid these qualities. Also one should avoid sense gratification, prosperity at the cost of others (note the qualifier here), lamenting giving away of gift after it is done, willing to face humiliation for gain, lack of discrimination, boasting and ill treating one’s spouse.
Pride and the qualities that amplify it are also to be avoided by one.
Cultivate these qualities
One who knows Brahman is a brahmana. (Note – it is by qualities and not be birth). And the twelve great qualities of brahmana are speaking truth, speaking what is good for others, controlling ones mind, studying scriptures, caring for well being of others, proprietary, not talking about faults of others in public, self control under all circumstrances and control of senses. Thus those who have achieved these qualities would be in a position to attain great knowledge and success and position in this world.
Control of senses is effective when along with above qualities one is not quarrelsome, respects all, not lamenting about past or worrying about future, equanimous in all circumstances, Knowledgeable, not causing injury to others, detached and spiritualistic.
Practising the above leads one to happiness.
Know thy self
An object is identified by words only if it has some quality as name, form, action, and relationship with some other objects. As the self does not have any of these qualities it cannot be described but only perceived as pointed by Vedas. Self can be realised by giving up sense objects, which is done by withdrawing senses, being quite, away from all actions and by contemplation and meditation. Brahman is the source of all names and forms and self is Brahman. So knower of the self knows the source of everything in the universe. Attaining Brahman, the ultimate reality, pure consciousness, bliss (sat, chit, ananda) that is happiness, and that is the goal of life. And those who attain the knowledge of self are liberated.
Thus one who knows himself to be Brahman had no death. It is unborn and is the self of all moving and unmoving. By meditating on this he is fulfilled. Brahman is immortal and all beings are born from it and merge into it. Brahman is the self, not self and all that exist and exist not.
-“Sanatsujatiyam” translated by S N Sastri
- Discourse by Shri Swami Anubhavananda Saraswati on Sanatsujatiyam – available on YouTube