Every person is some sort of a seeker, a sadhaka.
Whether you seek to go abroad or return home you are a seeker.
Whether you want to lose weight or build muscle you are a seeker and there is a means, a sadhana for it.
Depending on the end you want which is the sadhya, you have to determine the right means for it – the right sadhana.
If you attain the goal you want, that is the sadhya, then you are a siddha, an accomplished person.
We seek artha, security in the form of wealth, real estate, stocks, power and so on. Why? Artha seems to be the sadhana for the sadhya – a means to freedom from insecurity and happiness.
We seek different forms of kama, pleasures, aesthetic experiences like music, dance, art, close relationships. Why? Because money is not everything after all and kaama brings us happiness.
Both artha and kama are valid pursuits called purushaartha and are sought by all of us seekers through our different pursuits
We seek a better quality of life after this lifetime in svarga. The sadhana is karma of reaching out and performing prayers and rituals. Dharma too is a valid pursuit.
Most people wanting to be better versions of themselves seek to embody the universal framework of values such as honesty, kindness etc. And if we bring the practice of dharma in our pursuits then we see that all these pursuits – Dharma, Artha and Kaama are sadhyas, ends to be reached by us.
To a great extent the goals we set out for ourselves – a successful career, the acquiring of a property, living with a partner, having a child etc have been achieved. Still one is a seeker.
The seeker seeks to be happy at all times, in all places and all situations.
The seeker seeks to be free from any limitations that are experienced whether in the form of labels that society places on us or the limitation of age or disease.
The seeker is conscious of oneself and enjoys a certain freedom. This freedom comes from the very self that the seeker is conscious of.
I am. A statement of self existent, conscious being.
I am is something that even the corona virus senses as it mutates and proliferates.
I am, is generally followed by some judgment about oneself.
I am male, female, non binary, I am young, old. I am short, tall, I am white, black or brown.
I am a loser, a winner etc
I am aware of myself.
The self that you are aware of is small, insignificant and time bound and is therefore insecure. It is always wanting. Much like the tanpura that is present when an Indian musician is singing. There is a continuous drone, a particular pitch which is heard more distinctly when she does not sing or she stops. When she sings the drone is not heard. So too, in our lives, we have this constant drone – I want, I want, I want ..the specifics differ but the I want is constant.
This constant drone of ‘I want’ reveals a wanting person. Does the ‘I am wanting’ person undergo any change by fulfilling artha or kama? No. I want this. It is accomplished. I am a temporary siddha. Then I want that which is also accomplished. Again I am a temporary siddha. What we find is that Artha has no end and Kama has no end either.
That I am insecure and dissatisfied continue despite all our pursuits.
We seem to be seeking security but what we really are seeking is freedom from insecurity, freedom from dissatisfaction that which is centred on ourselves. In other words moksha.
Vedanta constitutes two types of sadhanas – sadhanas for self growth and mastery and sadhana for moksha.
Will any becoming or change on my part help? Despite my changing myself, my situation and the courageous but hopeless attempt to change the other, I am still wanting. Is there such a thing as bringing about a change without a change? There is.
In an ancient kingdom there was a prince who got lost as a child. He grows up to become a young man in a tribal community, hunting for food and living in the forest. He does not know that he is a prince who has the riches of the kingdom. The people from the palace have been looking for him and finally locate him because of his birthmarks. With enough evidence he is told – You are indeed a prince. When he discovers this about himself, does he undergo a change in terms of birth to become the prince or does he become a prince without a change? He had been the prince all along but just did not know it. The object of knowledge is that he is the prince, the one who seeks to know is also he. The seeker and the object of seeking i.e. the sought are identical.
The one who is to be known in the moksha pursuit is oneself. Hence external help in the form of guru is necessary because of the notion that ‘I am a seeker’. In this case, the prince thought he was a tribal. Unless someone who knows his real identity comes and tell him, you are not a tribal but a prince, how will he know? Any amount of acquiring wealth and pleasure will only confirm that he is a tribal and seeking. When he is given the proper evidence he does not feel like a prince but gets used to the reality. His behaviour may continue to be like a tribal for some time. He has to learn to live like a prince, think like a prince and act like a prince. Still a change without a change has taken place. There is a change because of knowledge. This change in the knowledge of one’s self identity as the limitless self is self knowledge. The seeker is seeking to be free from all boundaries not knowing that the seeker was always the sought.
Moksha is already an accomplished fact. But from the standpoint of the person who is seeking it is a sadhya vishaya, something to be accomplished. I am a prince is already an accomplished fact, siddha, but as he does not know it, it becomes a sadhya.
Since it is already accomplished, the accomplishment cannot be through a process of becoming. So, the desire for moksha, desire for freedom from limitation is converted into a desire for knowing the self. Mumuksha, moktum iccha is converted to jnaatum iccha, jijnasa. This conversion is important because only then one’s life gets a proper direction.
Then what is the sadhana for self knowledge? Any knowledge requires a means of knowledge.
Self knowledge also has a distinct means of knowledge which is different from the five means of knowledge. What are these?
Perception or Pratyaksham – If you want to see the shades of the Fall colors, your eyes become the sadhana, the means of We are endowed with five senses which give us knowledge. The eyes tells us about sights, the ears tell us about sounds, the nose give us knowledge about fragrances and smells, the tongue gives us information about tastes and flavours and the skin tells us about textures, temperature and so on. So pratyaksham or perception tell us about basic data. Perception tells you about your appearance and even your thoughts. But can perception tell you about that which does not have any dimensions and that which is unchanging? No.
Inference or Anumaana– On the basis of perceptual data we draw inferences. You put the kettle on and see steam. You conclude that the water has reached the required temperature. This is a one step inference.
Presumption or Arthaapatti – All medical diagnoses are two step inferences. On the basis of your symptoms the doctor suspects She does not have to cut open the stomach to see that you have an ulcer. She negates other possibilities. A healthy stomach cannot have an ulcer therefore if there is an ulcer it needs to be treated and hence prescribes some medicines. When it comes to knowing the self you can understand your personality, your qualities, your body composition, your health parameters. Can Inference and presumption tell you definitively your true nature? No.
Comparison or Upamaanam– is the fourth means of knowledge which helps us gain approximate knowledge. Have you seen wildebeest? They look like deer. So when you go on safari to Africa, although you have never seen wildebeest you will be able to identify them as they gallop freely in the grasslands. Since Atma is one without a second, nothing compares to you (and not in the way that Sinead O Connor meant it)
Cognition of absence or Anupalabdhi – is the fifth means of knowledge which reveals absence. Is it raining right now? You don’t hear the sound of rain. You perceive the absence of rain and neither is it an inference. It is directly known by you. You are very much present and hence you can sense the absence of something.