Two Types of Brahman Realization
Posted October 4, 2006
We know that realization of God in His Bhagavan feature is the highest realization, as it includes realization of His other features, Paramatma and Brahman. And we are given the logical proof- that as God is everything, He must be form and personality as well; but that since God is all-spiritual, His personality and form must necessarily be spiritual. And in the science of objects in this world, such as the study of electricity, it is the beginning student who knows it as an impersonal energy, but a master who knows the workings of the electrician behind it and how he directs it in certain ways according to his design.
This is convincing, logically, and therefore we worship God in his personal feature. But the problem is we have not actually realized even the Brahman feature of the Lord, what to speak of Paramatma or Bhagavan. The evidence is both in sastra and in personal experience. Sastra outlines the progress of the Bhagavan bhakta thus: as a neophyte he disregards the Paramatma within everyone's heart, for he worships the Lord in the temple with all awe and reverence, but is disrespectful to other living entities, causing them offence, or seeing them in terms of external designations and sectarian divisions. It is described that his worship of the Lord with various offerings is as good as pouring ghee into ashes. It is useless, as the Lord does not accept it, due to it being contaminated with various kinds of aparadha.
When, however, one progresses somewhat further, he has realization of the Lord in everyone's heart, and respects them duly. He no longer offends them. What happened, one may ask?. Paramatma realization is beneath Bhagavan realization, but here we see a Bhagavan bhakta progressing towards it, and sastra confirms the progress. Isn't even a *neophyte* Bhagavan bhakta superior to a fully Paramatma realized soul? Clearly not always, as both sastra and experience illustrate. Why?
When one takes to the worship of the Lord as a person, due to logical conviction given through the grace of parampara-which is the case with most of us- we are in a sense qualified as we have received the grace of the guru, but due to lack of spiritual insight, we are unqualified also. It is actually the mercy of guru and gauranga to elevate us, who have not yet been brahman-realized jnanis, or paramatma-realized yogis, to the platform of worshiping Bhagavan. It is to save us from so many lifetimes of endeavour in the short and trouble-ridden lives we traverse during the last of the four ages. But the danger is, we have no footing, no credit of our own.
Consider the child of a maths professor. He is only in elementary school, and is having trouble with his times tables. But sometimes he looks at his father's papers and copies his difficult equations and thus he appears to solve them. He can only imitate him of course, for were his father not a professor, he would have no independent ability to solve anything of the like. He can actually progress when he is thoroughly truthful and humble, and realizes his lack of realization in the maths field. If he has a superiority complex, however, and thinks he is above elementary school maths, he will never achieve the real thing.
It is absolutely necessary for those of us in the neophyte stage, to cultivate paramatma realization as part of our sadhana. Some say that we should just do the sadhana and the offenses will cease eventually, but the reality is that offensive service is an impediment, not a means, to spiritual enlightenment, as it pushes one further from the Lord. As the service must be favorable, so one must work on doing what is pleasing to the Lord. Consciousness of the presence of the Lord in the heart is a natural way to avoid offenses; it also ensures that one will associate as befits the sadhaka in the madhyama stage; choosing association not on the basis of external or psychological gratification, but on how much the association helps me be conscious of myself as a spiritual being, and all others also.
Thus from Paramatma realization of Bhagavan, one works upwards to Brahman realization of Bhagavan. One does not lose Bhagavan realization on the way, but instead progresses towards it; beyond the theoretic and ritualistic understanding. Eventually one realizes that God and His energy are one. Please note that this is different from brahman realization only. It is not realization that God is only energy- but that God is energy- as well as a Person. This is the uttama stage of realization of Bhagavan- realization of God not just in the heart, but in everything.
In the madhyama stage, one could feel God's presence in living things- in life. In this topmost stage, one feels God's presence even in inert matter. One sees Him everywhere through his energies, and there is no contaminated place or person that can shift one's gaze from the Lord. One sees things in this world as a mother sees the shoes or toys of her child who has gone to school. All her possessions remind the mother of her. She sees her child in the empty bed, in the plates, in the pictures she draws. Out of love, she sees her everywhere. It is in this consciousness that matter is no longer matter, but spirit. It is the essence of God, like a child's picture is her essence, but it indicates separtion, like the child has gone to school. And so the separation makes one cry out in love.
This would not be possible were it brahman realization alone. If God is energy only , then He is everywhere and where is the need for longing in separation- or service in union? There is a sense of satisfaction only, which makes one blissful- but inert. Since action, longing and love are functions of spirit as opposed to matter, our sastras present bhagavan realization as superior as it fulfills not just the soul's need for peace, but for these things as well.
Since much of sastra deals with realization of God's impersonal aspect, which we understand to be impermanent and akin to the "last snare of maya", it makes sense that such emphasis is there not so that we focus on that impersonal aspect as all in all- but rather to augment our realization of God as a person to its highest potential. After all, genuine Bhagavan realization cannot be learnt from books, but through personal experience under the tutelage of, and in service to the guru. Yet we see even in such cases, without proper cultivation of the consciousness of Paramatma and later Brahman realization, the neophyte does not progress due to his anarthas and offenses. Proper consciousness of Krsna in the heart, and gradually, Krsna in everything, must be cultivated.
Both guru and sastra are there to offer guidance in this endeavour. When guru sadhu and sastra assert that Bhagavan realization includes both Paramatma realization and Brahman realization, they refer to mature Bhagavan realization, for even brahman realization is beyond material desires, yet a neophyte devotee has many. Similarly when they assert that a devotee is beyond the modes of nature they mean a pure devotee. The confusion arises because we mistake external activity for inner realization, when all that may be there is an intellectual adjustment, or change in fashion of clothing and socio-religious ritual and language.
(Summarizing my points, which are open to criticism and deconstruction, all of which is most welcome, if strung together with good reason...)
To save time and the danger of falling into the limbo of brahmana blisshood,
our parampara elevates us immediately to the level of service to Bhagavan by
cultivating our faith in its efficacy. The rest of the qualification to
enter that level must come from effort on our part to cultivate an ever
expanding consciousness of God, beginning with the Diety, eventually to
encompass all that is within our vision. . If we do not put forth this
effort of continuing humility and meditation, we slip into the dangerous
position of self-righteous inner lethargy, feeling we are all that we need
to be, and that we know all that we need to know. Unfortunately, the truth
is so very different....