16 December 1957 DMC, Begusarai
Viveka (conscience) is a special kind of deliberation. Deliberation (vicára) is the endeavour to select a particular idea from several ideas. If a particular person is presented to you as a criminal, then there are two opposing ideas before you: the guilt of the man or his innocence. The process whereby one comes to a conclusion after deliberating upon these two opposing ideas is called vicára. When you finally make your decision it is called siddhánta (conclusion).
Conscience (viveka) is defined as a special type of vicára (deliberation). The denotation of vicára is broader than that of viveka. A thief, on entering his victim’s house, considers whether it would be better to start stealing in the dining room or the sitting room. This is a kind of deliberation after which the thief reaches his conclusion. This deliberation is vicára and not viveka.
Viveka is that kind of deliberation where there is a conscious endeavour to decide in favour of shreya (benevolence) when confronted with the two opposing ideas of shreya and preya (malevolence). Viveka is of five types, and their collective name is viveka paiṋcaka.
The first type is nityánitya viveka (discrimination between permanent and impermanent). Whenever an intelligent person ponders over something, he or she discerns its two aspects – the permanent and the impermanent. The attempt to accept the permanent aspect after due deliberation is called nityánitya viveka. The permanent is not dependent on the relative factors of time, space and person, whereas the impermanent is the collectivity of the relative factors. The best way to recognize the impermanent is that if one of the three relative factors is changed it will undergo an immediate transformation. Nityánitya viveka enables human beings to realize the necessity of observing dharma. It helps them to understand the fundamental differences between dharma and religion, or doctrine. Religion is something entirely relative whereas dharma is a permanent truth.
The first characteristic of religion is that it gives excessive importance to a single individual. Different regions claim that such-and-such great personality (mahápuruśa) is a son of God, a prophet, or even God himself. However wise these great persons might be, they are nevertheless mortal. Some also claim that the propounders of other religions could not come as close to God as their own propounder did. These words are not only irrational, but contain a concealed attempt to make the impermanent permanent. Dharma is an eternal truth credible and does not depend on any individual, prophet or avatára (direct descent of God) for its substantiation. The goal of dharma is the attainment of Brahma; its base and its movement are Brahma-centered. Brahma is the Absolute Entity independent of time, space and person; He is permanent. Brahma sádhaná, therefore, is the sádhaná for the attainment of the permanent entity.
Through nityánitya viveka, human beings become aware of the fleeting nature of transient objects. They observe that with change in time, place and person, corresponding changes occur in social, political, economic, and all other spheres of life take to which they have to adapt themselves. Those who are reluctant to adapt themselves to the changed circumstances are doomed to destruction. A religion or an “ism” is created in a certain age which itself is a product of the three factors of time, place and person. However, the religion does not recognize the necessity of adjustment with the change in social life. It refuses to realize that the old rules and regulations of the previous age are now only mere historical records, having lost their relevance in the present dynamic society.
To stifle the progress of humanity, the followers of these religions play on human sentiments and other weaknesses. They want to perpetuate the hold of the vested interests by infusing an inferiority complex into the human mind. While preaching their religious ideas, some claim that the social, economic and political systems were direct creations of God and hence destined to be observed in all ages and all times with equal veneration. They pronounce that those who refuse to follow this divine decree will be doomed to burn in the scorching heat of God’s wrath, or dammed to suffer eternal hell-fire. To deny people the scope of verifying the rationality of different scriptures they declare that such-and-such scriptures are infallible and so nobody has the right to question their veracity. If the philosophical texts contradict the scriptures, then their propounders will be declared as atheists.
So it is seen that in the absence of nityánitya viveka the propounders of religion want to thwart the intellectual progress of human society at large. They knowingly refuse to understand that any observation regarding the spatial, temporal and personal factors, from whatever person it might come, is bound to lose its relevance in a transformed situation.
Through nityánitya viveka try to understand what is permanent and what is impermanent. You will certainly realize that no scripture is a revelation of God; that everything in this world created by time, space and individuality is transient phenomenon. For the transient body and the transient mind one cannot deny the necessity of transient mundane objects. Though these things are necessary, they are still transient.
In the introversive phase of the cosmic imagination, intellectual progress of human beings is bound to take place and consequently their control over matter will gradually increase. In the process of further intellectual development, the old ideas and values of the undeveloped life will become outdated. You must have noticed that people with old, outdated ideas very often lament that the present younger generation has no spiritual inclination whatsoever. “Everything is lost,” they lament. Perhaps they do not understand, or maybe knowingly refuse to believe that scientific knowledge is increasing, dramatically. Modern youth is becoming acquainted with newer inventions and discoveries. They are learning about many new things and accepting them from the core of their hearts. As a result, the intellectual backwardness of the past seems to be totally absurd to them. The more scientific knowledge they acquire (in the Pratisaiṋcara movement of the Cosmic cycle they will certainly advance) the more they will try to liberate themselves from the noose of religion and “isms”, and the further they will advance along the path of dharma directly, scientifically and supported by rational judgment. Are the proponents of isms not aware of this fact? They are well aware and that is why they deliberately criticize material science at every opportunity. But this sort of criticism does not impress intellectual people.
It is not enough to equate the so-called religious scriptures with transient philosophy. Rather, these scriptures are [even inferior to the] material science. Although the material sciences are still imperfect from the ideological and practical point of view, they do not stifle the scientific progress of humanity; though they do stifle subtle intellectual and spiritual progress. But the conniving religious theologies seek to shackle peoples’ feet, making them as static as static as birds sitting on a perch in a cage. Too often they are satisfied with the amount of scientific progress they inherit and do not care for further development. To them molasses is sacred whereas sugar made at the mill is unholy because it is a product of science. To them bullock carts and rowing boats are sacred whereas trains and steamers are unholy because they, too, are the products of science. And yet, if these proponents of religion think a little deeper, they will realize that both molasses and sugar are products of science. The age of molasses was an age of undeveloped science. Sugar was a product of a comparatively developed age.
We cannot advise today’s human beings to go back to the age of candles and oil lamps neglecting the electric light. But some religions impart such teachings. Human beings will have to understand the proper spirit of nityánitya viveka and adjust themselves with the prevailing age. They will have to accept without reservation the situation of the particular age they are born into. It would not do to waste one’s time in unnecessarily gloating over the past.
Nityánitya viveka is an inseparable part of the practice of dharma. Dharma lays down clear guidelines for moving ahead in perfect adjustment with the prevalent situation. Dharma is the throbbing vital faculty of living beings. In dharma there is no scope for the accumulated inertness of staticity.
Brahma alone is an Eternal Entity, and the sádhaná of Brahma is the real practice of dharma. The ritualistic observances centred around the spatial and temporal factors cannot help in attaining the Eternal Entity, Parama Brahma. The sustained effort for psychic purification is the only means to become one with Him. People who observe ostentatious rituals after indulging in various antisocial activities may be seen as righteous people from the religious point of view, but if they are tested in the touchstone of dharma their sinful nature will be revealed.
As religions are dependent upon various changing factors, they differ widely from one another. They criticize and mock each other, exaggerating the other’s defects and refusing to acknowledge the other’s positive qualities. As they have no Eternal Entity as their goal, they are influenced more by allegiance to their own sect than by any love for humanity. But real dharma teaches that all living beings of the universe belong to one family; all are bound by the common touch of fraternity. The entire universe is everyone’s homeland, and all the animate and inanimate entities are the various expressions of one and the same Supreme being.
Hararme Pitá Gaorii Mátá svadesha bhuvanatrayam.
[Parama Puruśa is my Father, Parama Prakrti is my Mother, and the entire universe is my home.]
But strangely enough, many religions teach the opposite. They proclaim the exclusive greatness of a particular country, race, mountain or river. But in dharma there is no scope for intolerance, for Dharma is based on the solid foundation of vigour derived from universal love. The goal of religion is a non-integral entity and as such there remains a narrow outlook. The goal of dharma, however, is infinite Brahma. So the pursuit of dharma increasingly expands one’s vision. Sometimes a kind of alliance is noticed between religions but that is entirely an external alliance. The talk of synthesis of religions is totally absurd; it is merely an apparent show of honesty and grandiloquence to hoodwink the common people. Dharma is always singular in number, and never plural. So there is no question of religious synthesis in dharma. Religion is always plural in number – never singular. The synthesis of religions means their annihilation. Where impermanent entities are worshipped as the goal through various ritualistic paraphernalia, there is no scope for synthesis.
Religion is practiced for the fulfilment of mundane aspirations. This is the reason why a class of clergymen emerged centring around the religion. Ultimately the adherents of these religions become mere tools in the hands of vested interests. With the awakening of nityánitya viveka in human minds and the opening of the door of scientific knowledge, it will not be possible to deceive the people in the name of religion or by holding out the lure of happiness in the next world. The vested interests are quite aware of this fact and hence strive to keep the masses lost in the darkness of ignorance. Like parasites, they manoeuvre themselves to misappropriate, by injecting fear and inferiority complexes, a lion’s share of what the ignorant masses earn with their sweat and blood.
Religious exploiters maintain an unholy alliance with the capitalistic exploiters. With hands upraised, a religious preceptor blesses the wealthy merchants for their future prosperity but refuses to see the faces of his poor disciples who fail to provide handsome prańámii (a fee for the priest’s blessing). You will notice that in many religions mythological stories and fables are given more importance than science and rational ideas because they contain ample scope for exploitation of human weaknesses.
But in scientific and rational analyses, there is no scope for exploitation. If you consider yourself a Bráhmin by caste, then you will have to admit indirectly that the Bráhmins had their origin from the mouth of a god named Brahma. But will your scientific intellect agree to this sort of irrational interpretation? Likewise, if you consider your self as a warrior (kśatriya) or a merchant (vaeshya) or a labourer (shúdra), then you will have to accept that you were born of Brahma’s hands, thighs or legs. Anthropology, archaeology and human history can not accept these absurd notions. But the adherents of so many religions have to conform, more or less, to some mythological stories, which are totally contrary to science. By developing nityánitya viveka you will be able to clean your mind of the garbage caused by such superstitions with little effort. Nityánitya viveka teaches that the entities which are dependent on time, place and person are all transient. The only entity beyond the scope of time, place and person, is Paramátma, so He is the Eternal one, Nityaḿ Vastrekaḿ Brahma.
The second type of viveka paiṋcaka is dvaetádvaeta viveka. Through dvaetádvaeta viveka one gains the capacity to analyse whether the eternal entity is one or more than one and come to a conclusion accordingly (dvaeta means dualistic and advaeta means non-dualistic). There cannot remain any svagata, svajátiiya and vijátiiya differentiation in the entity which is beyond time, space and person. So it is not possible for the Eternal Entity to be more than one. Various beliefs about the so-called gods – that one god defeated another in battle, but was later harmed enormously by his adversary’s wrathful vengeance; that a certain god spreads or cures a certain disease; and that another god distributes wealth or learning – are contrary to Dvaetádvaeta Viveka.
In spiritual practice nityánitya viveka is not enough, Dvaetádvaeta viveka is also necessary. For success in spiritual practice both nityánitya viveka and dvaetádvaeta viveka are indispensable. They enable people to realize that all the objects bound by time, space and individuality are transient while the Entity beyond the periphery of time, space and individuality is permanent; It is one without a second.
The third type of conscience is átmánátma viveka (literally self-non-self conscience). The role of this type of conscience is to analyse whether the Permanent, Non-dualistic Entity is Consciousness (Átmabháva) or non-consciousness (anátmabháva).
Everything in this universe is a metamorphosed form of Consciousness. This metamorphosis takes place due to the influence of static principle. The creation of the world of forms by the static principle continues as a result of the changes in the flow of endless waves. Forms are the expressions of the formless due to the influence of the static Prakrti. So Consciousness, in the process of crudification, is turned into solid matter and takes the form of a perceptible object, relinquishing its original quality of witnesship. That is, Consciousness (Átmabháva) becomes metamorphosed into non-consciousness (anátmabháva). From mind to solid matter there is the domination of non-consciousness and hence the existence of the three factors: knower, knowledge, and knowable. When spiritual aspirants apply átmánátma viveka they can easily discern these three factors and come to the realization that all the three are changeable and perceptible and hence non-consciousness by nature. And the entity which is above these three factors, which is One without a second, which is the Witnessing Entity, is nothing but Consciousness.
In the mundane world people run after money. What is the nature of this money? Money is important to buy crude physical objects. It is not a conscious entity; it is non-consciousness. Its necessity is felt by the unit mind. Money is knowable and enjoyable, and the pleasure derived from money is enjoyment. But, being non-consciousness, it cannot be the cause of unlimited happiness. Yet people will do almost anything to attain money: bribery, murder, adulteration, black marketing, hypocrisy and so on. Such people are the worshipers of non-consciousness, investing all their vital energy in the pursuit of matter.
Apply átmánátman viveka in all action and all thoughts. Atmánátma viveka has a greater importance in the field of action than dvaetádvaeta viveka. If you utilize it as an indispensable part of your daily life, the true form of the universe will appear before you. Of course, this will never happen if one harbours sinful thoughts while pretending to be righteous. Átmánátman viveka will teach you that the Singular Eternal Entity in the form of Consciousness should be your only object of ideation. You will see the colours of religion fade before your eyes as the pure white effulgence of dharma shines with ever-increasing brilliance.
All the “isms” prevalent in today’s world can easily be included in the category of religions. All the defects of religions exist in the “isms” too. None of the political, social or economic “isms” are free from superstition none are straightforward; all are full of rampant hypocrisy. In all “isms”, doctrines and religions, the scriptural authority is supreme. There is no scope for the functioning of the five types of conscience, no place for service, love or devotion. With the help of falsehood and immorality, these “isms,” doctrines and religions slander and make accusations against each other. They make attractive promises to the people while hiding their own internal sins. In fact, false piety is not the path of dharma, leading to welfare, but the opposite of dharma, the negation of welfare. They can be likened to asses wearing lion skins: take away the lion skins and their their true form will be revealed. They have no other purpose than to grab votes and usurp power. The mentality to grab the votes first and then serve the people is not the true spirit of selfless social service; rather, it is the mentality of power craving materialists.
You will have to advance with the true spirit of genuine social service, because the very characteristic of dharma is to promote the cause of welfare. Dharma and welfare are inseparable. Religion and intolerance have created enormous harm in the world, have caused torrents of blood to stain the rivers red. In the present twentieth century, religions have assumed the form of “isms”.
The people of medieval times fought among the clans and communities, and the people of today are fighting over their “isms”. Just as religions did in the past, the “isms” are criticizing each other today, betraying their spirit of intolerance as they try to gag each other’s voices. It seems that they have no other goal than carping, criticizing, and slandering each other. They are befooling the ignorant masses by painting rosy pictures of service, peace and happiness. On the other hand they themselves are going far away from the path of selfless service and welfare. To emancipate the masses from the unhealthy influence of “isms” there is no other way than universalism. Only universalism is free from the defects of any narrowisms because every thing of this entire universe comes within its vast periphery.
It is only with the help of átmánátma viveka that the human beings can emerge from the mire of the present century and move towards universalism with firm steps. By virtue of átmánátma viveka people can realize that Brahma is the Eternal Singular Entity, pure Consciousness.
The fourth type of conscience is paiṋcakośa viveka (the conscience of paiṋcakośas or five layers of existence). People sometimes mistake the different layers of their existence to be unit consciousness. With the help of paiṋcakośa viveka people can easily discern that the annamaya kośa (physical body), kamamaya kośa (crude mind) manomaya kośa (subtle mind), atimanas, vijiṋánamaya, and hiranyamaya kośas(causal mind) are separate layers, and that Consciousness is above all five kośas. Spiritual sádhaná means ideation on one’s own consciousness beyond these kośas and not ideation on any of the kośas themselves. Through knowledge one must analyse and stop worshipping these kośas. Movement towards consciousness is the real spirit of sádhaná. It is not possible to follow the spiritual cult without properly cultivating paiṋcakośa viveka.
Take for example the case of a major problem in society – the problem of food and clothes. Food and clothes are essential for the preservation of human existence, but they are not the goal of life. They are necessary for the physical body (annamaya kośa), and to some extent for other kośas too, but they are not everything. With them it is not possible to achieve complete mundane fulfillment. To attain supreme benevolence the microcosmic entity consisting of the five kośas is a necessity, and for that there is the need of food and clothes. But the struggle for procuring food and clothes is only a crude stage of sádhaná not the final and absolute one. Those whose entire sádhaná is employed only for procuring food and clothes can hardly be called human beings; they are better described as undeveloped animals.
Mahávákya viveka, the fifth stage of conscience, is the resultant of the other four. The first four types of conscience help a sadhaka to realize that the Eternal Entity, Brahma, is One without a second, Consciousness personified, and the knower of the five kośas. Mahávákya viveka teaches human beings that He is not attainable through mere knowledge. To liberate the consciousness from these five kośas, action and devotion are indispensable. Those who think that He is attainable through the cult of knowledge alone are mistaken. By cultivating the first four types of conscience a person of knowledge may become established in mahávákya viveka. At that stage he or she realizes that the mere pursuit of knowledge cannot bring paramártha (the means of attaining the supreme goal). He or she then understands that the knowledge already acquired is not true knowledge because it leads to vanity.
If ignorant people want to acquire more knowledge they should be encouraged to do so. But if so-called intellectuals (jiṋániis), puffed up with the vanity of knowledge, want to attain more knowledge they should be told to perfect the cult of action and devotion first, thereby smashing their vanity. So let the jiṋánii tell the masses that Brahma is attainable only through self surrender, proper questioning and selfless service.
Pránipátena, pariprashnena, sevayá. Keep serving the people, and as you render service ascribe Brahmahood to those you are serving. Try to make them happy with all the sweetness of your heart. Help others with the true spirit of service, not with the intention of propagating your self or group interests or any “ism” you may adhere to. Think that the Supreme Entity has come to you in the form of needy people to test your sense of duty. This sort of selfless service is karma yoga. Your only motivation for service should be to promote the welfare of suffering people. Those who serve the poor in order to convert them in some way, or those political opportunists who serve them to get their votes with a view to becoming ministers, are not the true benefactors of human society, but the devious traders.
Along with service, spiritual aspirants should also cultivate pariprashnena (proper questioning). When a spiritual aspirant follows the path of the spirituality, so many questions, doubts, and confusions arise in the mind. Pariprashnena is asking questions to the right people who will provide appropriate answers to help one solve any problem one may encounter on the spiritual path. This permits one to advance more rapidly towards the spiritual goal. Through the cultivation of the five stages of conscience all questions are easily answered. One who does not follow the spiritual path, or one who does not develop the five-fold conscience, remains constantly preoccupied with the material objects of enjoyment.
Together with selfless service and proper questioning, prańipátena, or complete surrender, is also essential. Cultivate knowledge and render service unto others to the best of your capacity, but do not think that this will suffice; for your small-I still exists. You must surrender your small I to the Cosmic I: this is the spirit of pranipátena. That is why it is said that the five types of conscience attain their consummation through jiṋána yoga, karma yoga and bhakta yoga.
So, the five types of conscience begin with nityánitya viveka and terminate in devotion. The sphere of knowledge is vast, yet it is as arid as a desert: the sphere of action starts from a point of timelessness, yet it cannot transcend the barriers of time. Devotion brings abundance, enrichment, effulgence and dynamism. Devotion is the most valuable treasure of human life because it supplies endless vitality.
Bhaktirbhagavato sevá bhaktih premasvarúpińiih,
Bhaktirándarúpá ca bhaktih bhaktasya jiivanam.
Shrii Shrii A'nandamu'rti
Subháśita Saḿgraha Part 6