Self-contemplation and understanding: the way of atma-vichara. What or who am I? Where does this query lead? Is there a reality behind the outer form and personality. A Vedantic investigation.
Only he who is thus established in the prajna will be able to make the final leap to the anamayam padam, the Sorrowless State, with any hope of success, and, in order to attain this union with the buddhi the method recommended is skill in action ( karmesu kaushalam), the maintenance of a balanced attitude, the same in failure as in success. The disciple is to keep his mind perfectly indifferent to the results of his actions while yet, in a spirit of utter detachment, performing such acts as are his duty. Acting in this way the disciple’s action will be guided by the impersonal knowledge of the buddhi and he will then transcend selfish good and evil.
This is the method of the Karma Yoga … its purpose is to gain control of the desire-prompted impulses of the senses and to harmonize the mind so as to render it possible for the latter to unite with the buddhi and enable the Divine knowledge to blossom forth. It is only through the buddhi that this knowledge can shine freely; below that level it is obstructed and broken up by the play of the separated individualities, and it is only when they are united with what is beyond them that the unifying Divine Wisdom can become manifest and the fetters of duality begin to fall away.
It is easy to say “unite the mind with the buddhi,” but usually such words have but little meaning for the disciple, since he has as yet had no experience of the buddhi and knows not what it really is. Moreover, the mind remains obstinately separate and will not suffer itself to be united with anything. Hence the supreme importance of supplementing the theoretic technique of the Sankhya by a practice designed to harmonize and control the mind in action. In reply to Arjuna’s question about the characteristics of the man who has united himself with the buddhi, Sri Krishna describes how the disciple, uniting himself with the felt reality within, must detach himself from the desire life of the senses as a tortoise withdraws its limbs from contact with the outer world. Mere withdrawal is, however, not enough, for though the sense objects lose their power over the man who habitually practices restraint, yet the desire for them remains in his heart and dies only when something higher than the sense life is actually seen.
In the last resort, nothing but the vision of the Atman itself can cause the utter dying-out of desire, and therefore the disciple is instructed not to remain content with the negative restraint but to centre his gaze upon the Atman within, unseen though yet it be. “Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master, whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.” The slightest wavering, the slightest turning back in thought to that sense world on which the disciple has turned his back, will energize anew the desires which he is striving to abandon, and as the tension increases in his desire-nature (what some psychologists term the unconscious) they will burst out in a great flash of anger utterly devastating to his spiritual progress, shattering his inner perception and causing a loss of those “memories” by which he hoped to mount.
It is not that the sense life is to be negated or outwardly discontinued, as impracticably taught by some Sankhyas. It is an inner withdrawal that is to be practiced, a withdrawal to higher levels that will in itself bring that outer harmonization which is essential if buddhi is to be attained. In the old symbol of the chariot, the horses of the senses are to be held back ( nighrita ) by the reins of the mind, but it is not intended that they should be unyoked from the chariot or that their movement should be stopped altogether. The aim of this practice is that the mind should, to some extent at least, be purified by the practice of selfless action and at least partially liberated from the thralldom of attachments, so that it may cease to assert its unique viewpoint at every moment. Then, as the wind of desire subsides, the disciple will feel a luminous peace and wisdom reflected in his heart, like the images of the eternal stars reflected in the depths of a lake, and he will have gained a preliminary perception of the actual nature of buddhi that will be a thousand times more useful to him than all the descriptions of the books.
For the first time will the command to unite the manas with the buddhi begin to have a meaning for him, and only now will he be able to address himself to the task with any hope of success. Far overhead, Its blazing Light as yet a mere pinpoint to his vision, burns the star of the Supreme Atman, the goal of all his efforts. Dimly It shines in the darkness and seems to flicker as Its rays pierce the unsteady middle air, but once seen It can never be forgotten, and offering himself to It, in utter devotion and worship, the disciple must press on, straining his vision to the utmost to pierce through what to him are the darkly throbbing abysses of non-being though to the fully awakened eye of the Seer they are a radiant pleroma of Light, “the Light that shines beyond the broken lamps,” the glorious sunshine of the Eternal Day.
“This is the Brahmic State, O Arjuna, which having attained, one is deceived no more,” and though as yet, the disciple has but a glimpse of that Farther Shore, and though the shadows will again and again return, blotting out the Light from his eyes, yet will Its memory remain with him forever, for he has “reached the stream” and the promise of final salvation has been uttered: “Whoever, even at the final hour, is established therein attains the Supreme Nirvana".
With gratitude to Sri Krishna Prem