The Real i | Bhaja Govindam 23rd stanza

(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)

Kastvam koham kuta aayaatah, ka me janani ko me taatah
Iti paribhaavaya sarvamasaaram, vishwam tyaktva swapna vicharam || 23 ||

Meaning: Who are you? Who am I? Who’s my mother? Who’s my father? Thus enquire and realize this entire world is essenceless and reject it like a dreamland.

In many of the verses of Bhaja Govindam and other texts, we come across various areas where the teachers simplify a deep concept and explain it to us in simple words. However, at some places, they do not explain, instead they ask us to Enquire. Such a set of questions are given in the first line – Who am I? What is my source? As a child, we must have asked our mother similar questions – From where did I come? Where was I when you got married? But somewhere down the line, these questions became of lesser importance, or absurd, to us. We learn in school how a child is born. But unfortunately, our schools didn’t teach us to enquire. A student in the Upanishads would question further something like this – If I was there in my parents’ bodies before I was conceived, then from where did I come into their bodies? It must be through the food they conceived. So I was present in the food. From where did I come into the food? From the seed, the soil, water, manure? And how did I land up there? If I go enquiring, the enquiry goes unending. According to the Cause & Effect theory, I’m an effect which had a cause. And that cause was an effect for another cause. In that case, what is the Ultimate Cause because of which I’m here? Also, if Cause & Effect says that Effect is nothing but the Cause in a different form, then I must be that Ultimate Cause which underwent some changes and resulted in this Effect. Even after knowing this, why am I not able to Realise my true nature of the Ultimate Cause? The Masters who have realized have done this sort of enquiries and after they Realised, they realized that that Realisation cannot be taught or explained. It has to be Experienced.

Second line begins saying – This entire world is essenceless. Why and how can anybody say like that? The world is so colourful. A mango is so sweet. Nature is so beautiful. Then why is it mentioned here as essenceless? Let’s try to analyse this.

We are able to see so many colours in a butterfuly. When a dog sees the same butterfly, he sees it only in shades of red and green. We cannot see colours clearly without the help of light, but nocturnal animals can. Insects can see untra-violet light, but humans can’t. Many fishes & animals can hear ultra-sonic sounds, but humans cannot. A mango is sweet for humans, and sweetness is considered as one of the wonderful tastes. But will a dog like eating a mango? If all these are true, are colours, tastes, sounds, etc for real or is it something that we perceive?

Last part of the verse is the toughest thing to accept. The world is but a dream. Why? How? Does it make any sense at all?

Vedanta says there are basically three states – Jaagrat (waking state), Swapna (dream state) and Sushupti (deep sleep). A person is usually only in one of these states. When he goes to sleep, the waking world disappears and he goes into another world which is created by his own mind. While he is in that world, he experiences everything for real. While seeing a nightmare one’s body may even sweat, he may even cry or become restless. Why does this happen? Because in his dream state, his experiences are Real for him. At this time, he does not get affected by the happenings in the waking world (where others are awake). Another interesting thing about dream state is that, a dream usually lasts only for seconds. However long the dream might be (we might see a chain of events in the dream), it just occurs in a few seconds. How could something that was seen in such a short time, feel like a long period? What does that mean? Yes, Einstein was right about his Theory of Relativity. Time is Relative and it’s concepts change when the state of a person is changed.

Sometimes after a deep-sleep we can’t believe that it’s morning already. The sound sleep made us feel that we just went off to sleep and immediately woke up. Once again, in deep-sleep state, time passes faster that waking or dream states.

In the movie ‘Matrix’, there’s a wonderful question that Morpheus asks Neo, “How do you know that you are not sleeping unless you wake up?” A very powerful line. Again, in the movie ‘Inception’ there’s this dialogue – Dreams feel real while we are in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.

In which ever state we may be, we experience it for real. During dream and deep-sleep, we cannot accept that it’s not real. In that case, how do we know if waking state is for real? The answer lies in the definition of Real. Vedantic definition of Real is – something that does not change in any of the three states of waking, dream or deep sleep nor in any of the three tenses – past, present or future. Only that thing is Real. Rest everything is Unreal or Relatively Real.

Our three states keep changing everyday. But who is the experiencer of all the three states? Is it the mind? Can we say that the mind is experiencing all the three states? If that is so, then our mind should be awake and experiencing in deep-sleep state too. But there, the mind is asleep. So, our mind goes through the waking and dream state. However, who tells us that we had a good sleep after we wake up from our deep-sleep? Who was there ‘awake’ in our deep-sleep state, who experienced a state of peace and is telling us in the waking state that ‘I experienced a good sleep’. So when the mind was asleep, there was somebody awake in me who was experiencing. It is that Awareness or Experiencer in me, which is no one other than me (but I cannot define ‘me’) who experiences all the three states and all the three tenses. So, that ‘I’ is Real and the three states and tenses of time are Unreal (Relatively real).

It is to this state of Awareness (the state of ‘I’ we discussed above) that our Masters are asking us to wake up to. They are telling us to ‘Enquire and Realise’ that means intellectual understanding is not enough. Experiencing is a must. ‘Reject it like a dreamland’ does not mean neglect the world, rather it means, live in this relatively real world as if you are playing a game – the Game of Life.

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