Difference between revisions of "The Seven Planes of Prajna"

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
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'''By Swami Alokananda'''
 
'''By Swami Alokananda'''
  
Brahman is Satchidananda—existence, knowledge, and bliss absolute—eternal, unchanging, without beginning or end, the plenitude of knowledge, devoid of all activ­ity, transcending all objective categories. Through its omnipotence, Shakti, it willed its own objec­tive manifestation. The indivisible ocean of con­sciousness was thrown into waves. Though every wave is part of the ocean, yet each is seen as a sep­arate independent entity. In like manner, the in­dividual soul, jiva—a wave in the limitless ocean of non­dual Satchidananda—conceives itself as independent out of ignorance, ajñāna or avidyā, becomes confined to the limited sphere of know­ledge, and is overcome by egotism. Release from this avidyā alone can bring fulflment in life. Only then is the jiva able to transcend the cycle of birth and death by being established in its own true Self. The Indian spiritual tradition has detailed different spiritual practices or sadhanas for practitioners of diverse temperaments to be established in the Self. We shall be taking a very brief look at the process of reaching the farthest reaches of insight, prajñā, as described by Maharshi Patanjali.
 
  
 +
Brahman is Satchidananda—existence, knowledge, and bliss absolute—eternal, unchanging, without beginning or end, the plenitude of knowledge, devoid of all activ­ity, transcending all objective categories. Through its omnipotence, Shakti, it willed its own objec­tive manifestation. The indivisible ocean of con­sciousness was thrown into waves. Though every wave is part of the ocean, yet each is seen as a sep­arate independent entity. In like manner, the in­dividual soul, jiva—a wave in the limitless ocean of non­dual Satchidananda—conceives itself as independent out of ignorance, ''ajñāna'' or ''avidyā'', becomes confined to the limited sphere of know­ledge, and is overcome by egotism. Release from this ''avidyā'' alone can bring fulflment in life. Only then is the jiva able to transcend the cycle of birth and death by being established in its own true Self. The Indian spiritual tradition has detailed different spiritual practices or sadhanas for practitioners of diverse temperaments to be established in the Self. We shall be taking a very brief look at the process of reaching the farthest reaches of insight, ''prajñā'', as described by Maharshi Patanjali.
  
Ayurveda conceives the practice of the art of healing in terms of disease, its cause, health, and the means to health. The system of yoga, which aims at elimination of existential ills, also outlines its method under four heads: heya, the ill that has to be eliminated; heya-hetu, the cause of the ill; hāna, freedom from the ill; and hānopāya, the means to this freedom. Existence, characterized by sorrow, is itself the ill.<ref>‘Heyam duhkham-anāgatam’; Yoga Sutra, 2.16.</ref> The union between the purusha, the seer, and the mind or intellect, buddhi, the seen, is the cause of the ill.<ref>‘Drastr-drśyayoh samyogo heya-hetuh’ (2.17).</ref> Permanent elimination of this attachment or ‘wrong identifcation’ is freedom,<ref>‘Tad-abhāvāt  samyogābhāvo hānam  tad-drśeh kaivalyam’ (2.25).</ref> and viveka-khyāti, discriminative knowledge de­void of all falsity, is the means to this freedom.<ref>‘Viveka-khyātir-aviplavā hānopāyah’ (2.26).</ref>
 
  
 +
Ayurveda conceives the practice of the art of healing in terms of disease, its cause, health, and the means to health. The system of yoga, which aims at elimination of existential ills, also outlines its method under four heads: ''heya'', the ill that has to be eliminated; ''heya-hetu'', the cause of the ill; ''hāna'', freedom from the ill; and ''hānopāya'', the means to this freedom. Existence, characterized by sorrow, is itself the ill.<ref>‘Heyam duhkham-anāgatam’; Yoga Sutra, 2.16.</ref> The union between the purusha, the seer, and the mind or intellect, ''buddhi'', the seen, is the cause of the ill.<ref>‘Drastr-drśyayoh samyogo heya-hetuh’ (2.17).</ref> Permanent elimination of this attachment or ‘wrong identifcation’ is freedom,<ref>‘Tad-abhāvāt  samyogābhāvo hānam  tad-drśeh kaivalyam’ (2.25).</ref> and ''viveka-khyāti'', discriminative knowledge de­void of all falsity, is the means to this freedom.<ref>‘Viveka-khyātir-aviplavā hānopāyah’ (2.26).</ref>
  
That all worldly objects are sources of pain is a central dictum in yoga. Even apparently pleasurable objects lead to painful consequences. The identifca­tion of the Purusha with the mind is the source of the three kind of sorrows: ādhyātmika, physical and psychological; ādhibhautika, caused by other beings; and ādhidaivika, the natural calamities. Though eternally pure and unattached, the Purusha identi­fes itself with the mind or buddhi due to ajñāna. Just as a loving mother actually starts feeling the pain of her sick child and even thinks of herself as ill due to her attachment to the child, the Purusha too considers itself afflicted by the ills of the mind. So the sadhaka has to break this identifcation of the seer with the seen. The identifcation is the result of a lack of discrimination between the true identities of the seer and the seen. Hence the sadhaka has to cultivate discriminative knowledge, viveka-khyāti, about the seer and the seen through the practice of the eight­ limbed yoga. When this viveka-khyāti re­mains unimpeded by nescience or false knowledge the jiva attains prajñā, discriminative insight.
 
  
 +
That all worldly objects are sources of pain is a central dictum in yoga. Even apparently pleasurable objects lead to painful consequences. The identifca­tion of the Purusha with the mind is the source of the three kind of sorrows: ''ādhyātmika'', physical and psychological; ''ādhibhautika'', caused by other beings; and ''ādhidaivika'', the natural calamities. Though eternally pure and unattached, the Purusha identi­fes itself with the mind or ''buddhi'' due to ''ajñāna''. Just as a loving mother actually starts feeling the pain of her sick child and even thinks of herself as ill due to her attachment to the child, the Purusha too considers itself afflicted by the ills of the mind. So the sadhaka has to break this identifcation of the seer with the seen. The identifcation is the result of a lack of discrimination between the true identities of the seer and the seen. Hence the sadhaka has to cultivate discriminative knowledge, ''viveka-khyāti'', about the seer and the seen through the practice of the eight­ limbed yoga. When this ''viveka-khyāti'' re­mains unimpeded by nescience or false knowledge the jiva attains ''prajñā'', discriminative insight.
  
In his Yoga Sutra Maharshi Patanjali mentions several levels of prajñā, the ultimate discriminative insight derived from viveka-khyāti: ‘Tasya saptadhā prānta-bhūmih prajñā; to that person come seven forms of discriminative insight’ (2.27).
 
  
 +
In his ''Yoga Sutra'' Maharshi Patanjali mentions several levels of ''prajñā'', the ultimate discriminative insight derived from ''viveka-khyāti'': ‘''Tasya saptadhā prānta-bhūmih prajñā''; to that person come seven forms of discriminative insight’ (2.27).
  
The first plane of prajñā marks the ultimacy of the sadhaka’s knowledge. Earlier, the sadhaka had something to know about the ills that he or she was trying to forsake. Now that need is extinguished. In the next stage the renunciant is established in the conviction that nothing further remains to be re­nounced. On reaching the third plane the sadhaka realizes that he or she has successfully accessed all the means to this detachment; nothing more re­mains to be acquired. When on the fourth plane, the sadhaka is convinced that having attained viveka-khyāti through samprajñāta samādhi he or she has reached the culmination of the practices for libera­tion and that nothing more remains to be done.
 
  
 +
The first plane of ''prajñā'' marks the ultimacy of the sadhaka’s knowledge. Earlier, the sadhaka had something to know about the ills that he or she was trying to forsake. Now that need is extinguished. In the next stage the renunciant is established in the conviction that nothing further remains to be re­nounced. On reaching the third plane the sadhaka realizes that he or she has successfully accessed all the means to this detachment; nothing more re­mains to be acquired. When on the fourth plane, the sadhaka is convinced that having attained ''viveka-khyāti'' through ''samprajñāta samādhi'' he or she has reached the culmination of the practices for libera­tion and that nothing more remains to be done.
  
These four forms of prajñā constitute kārya-vimukti, liberation from action. They involve active practice. The next three planes involve dissolution of the citta, mindstuff, and together constitute citta-vimukti. As the yogi remains established in para-vairāgya, supreme renunciation, these three planes of prajñā unfold of their own accord.
 
  
 +
These four forms of ''prajñā'' constitute ''kārya-vimukti'', liberation from action. They involve active practice. The next three planes involve dissolution of the ''citta'', mindstuff, and together constitute ''citta-vimukti''. As the yogi remains established in ''para-vairāgya'', supreme renunciation, these three planes of ''prajñā'' unfold of their own accord.
  
The fifth form of prajñā brings with it the real­ization that the mind, having fulfilled its function, has become quiescent, and that sorrows born of vāsanās, desires and impulses, have come to an end. With the advent of the sixth discriminative insight the mindstuff, derived from the three gunas, starts disintegrating irreversibly: ‘like boulders dislodged from the top of a hill, the mind, along with its con­stituents, rushes unstoppably into dissolution—merger in its cause, Prakriti’. On the final plane the Purusha is restored to its own pristine state, de­void of all contact with the mind and its functions which have now undergone total dissolution.
 
  
 +
The fifth form of ''prajñā'' brings with it the real­ization that the mind, having fulfilled its function, has become quiescent, and that sorrows born of ''vāsanās'', desires and impulses, have come to an end. With the advent of the sixth discriminative insight the mindstuff, derived from the three ''gunas'', starts disintegrating irreversibly: ‘like boulders dislodged from the top of a hill, the mind, along with its con­stituents, rushes unstoppably into dissolution—merger in its cause, Prakriti’. On the final plane the Purusha is restored to its own pristine state, de­void of all contact with the mind and its functions which have now undergone total dissolution.
  
The first plane marks the end of all jijñāsā, desire for knowing; the second of jihāsā, desire for giv­ing up; the third of prepsā, wish to obtain; and the fourth of cikīrsā, wish to do. The next three planes are characterized by the successive elimination of duhkha, bhaya, and vikalpa—sorrow, fear, and fi­nally all mental modifcations. In the Vedantic text Yogavasishtha, the sage Va­sishtha also speaks of seven stages of yoga:
 
  
'' Jñāna-bhūmih śubhecchākhyā  
+
The first plane marks the end of all ''jijñāsā'', desire for knowing; the second of ''jihāsā'', desire for giv­ing up; the third of ''prepsā'', wish to obtain; and the fourth of ''cikīrsā'', wish to do. The next three planes are characterized by the successive elimination of ''duhkha'', ''bhaya'', and ''vikalpa''—sorrow, fear, and fi­nally all mental modifcations. In the Vedantic text ''Yogavasishtha'', the sage Va­sishtha also speaks of seven stages of yoga:
      prathamā samudāhrtā;
+
 
 +
Jñāna-bhūmih śubhecchākhyā  
 +
    prathamā samudāhrtā;
 
  Vicāranā dvitīyā syāt  
 
  Vicāranā dvitīyā syāt  
      trtīyā tanumānasā.
+
    trtīyā tanumānasā.
 
  Sattvāpattiś-caturthī syāt-  
 
  Sattvāpattiś-caturthī syāt-  
      tato’samsakti-nāmikā;
+
    tato’samsakti-nāmikā;
 
  Padārthābhāvinī sasthī  
 
  Padārthābhāvinī sasthī  
      saptamī turyagā smrtā.''
+
    saptamī turyagā smrtā.
 
   
 
   
The first stage of knowledge is called ‘goodwill’, the second is termed ‘discrimination’, and the third ‘at­tenuated mind’.  
+
The first stage of knowledge is called ‘goodwill’, the second is termed ‘discrimination’, and the third ‘at­tenuated mind’. The fourth stage is ‘self ­realization’, the fifth is named ‘detachment’, the sixth is the ‘ob­jectless’, and the seventh the ‘transcendent’.<ref>Laghu-yoga-vasishtha, 13.113–14.</ref>
The fourth stage is ‘self ­realization’, the fifth is named ‘detachment’, the sixth is the ‘ob­jectless’, and the seventh
+
the ‘transcendent’.<ref>Laghu-yoga-vasishtha, 13.113–14.</ref>
+
  
  
Renunciation of worldly attachments and ac­tivities through discrimination and cultivation of traits like restraint of the senses and the mind, ab­stinence from sensual thought, forbearance, faith, and meditation out of an intense desire for libera­tion constitute the first plane, Shubheccha. For­mally approaching a guru and undertaking study of and reflection on Vedantic dicta under his or her guidance is the second stage, Vicharana. The men­tal capacity to apprehend subtle spiritual truths, developed through practice of contemplation on Vedantic truths, nididhyāsana, marks the third  
+
Renunciation of worldly attachments and ac­tivities through discrimination and cultivation of traits like restraint of the senses and the mind, ab­stinence from sensual thought, forbearance, faith, and meditation out of an intense desire for libera­tion constitute the first plane, Shubheccha. For­mally approaching a guru and undertaking study of and reflection on Vedantic dicta under his or her guidance is the second stage, Vicharana. The men­tal capacity to apprehend subtle spiritual truths, developed through practice of contemplation on Vedantic truths, ''nididhyāsana'', marks the third  
plane, Tanumanasa. The fourth plane, Sattvapatti, is characterized by the non­dual realization of the oneness of Atman and Brahman, resulting from śravana—instruction on Vedantic mahāvākyas, comprehensive unitary statements, by a compe­tent teacher. When the mind practising nirodha, restraint, moves beyond objective or savikalpaka samadhi to nirvikalpaka samadhi, an objectless state, then it is said to have reached the fifth plane, termed Asamsakti. The permanent and steady es­tablishment in this state born of sustained effort on the previous planes is termed Padarthabhavini, the sixth plane. When the yogi is so established in Brahman, so soaked in the bliss of samadhi as never  
+
plane, Tanumanasa. The fourth plane, Sattvapatti, is characterized by the non­dual realization of the oneness of Atman and Brahman, resulting from ''śravana''—instruction on Vedantic ''mahāvākyas'', comprehensive unitary statements, by a compe­tent teacher. When the mind practising ''nirodha'', restraint, moves beyond objective or ''savikalpaka samadhi'' to ''nirvikalpaka samadhi'', an objectless state, then it is said to have reached the fifth plane, termed Asamsakti. The permanent and steady es­tablishment in this state born of sustained effort on the previous planes is termed Padarthabhavini, the sixth plane. When the yogi is so established in Brahman, so soaked in the bliss of samadhi as never  
 
to return to a lower plane, either of one’s own ac­cord or through others’ efforts, then that yogi is on the ultimate plane, Turyaga.
 
to return to a lower plane, either of one’s own ac­cord or through others’ efforts, then that yogi is on the ultimate plane, Turyaga.
  
  
The fourth plane signals Self ­realization, the first three being means to it. The last three planes are but diferent states of jīvanmukti, freedom while living:
+
The fourth plane signals Self ­realization, the first three being means to it. The last three planes are but diferent states of ''jīvanmukti'', freedom while living:
  
 
  Caturthī-bhūmikā jñānam  
 
  Caturthī-bhūmikā jñānam  
Line 51: Line 50:
  
  
Yogis happening to die while on any of the first three planes would have to be born again. They are not liberated because they are yet to attain jnana, though they have renounced karma. It is only those who are on the fourth or higher planes that are as­sured of videha-kaivalya, liberation from future embodiment. The Bhagavata has this to say about the external behaviour of the jīvanmukta yogi:
+
Yogis happening to die while on any of the first three planes would have to be born again. They are not liberated because they are yet to attain jnana, though they have renounced karma. It is only those who are on the fourth or higher planes that are as­sured of ''videha-kaivalya'', liberation from future embodiment. The Bhagavata has this to say about the external behaviour of the ''jīvanmukta'' yogi:
  
 
  Deham ca naśvaram-avasthitam-utthitam vā
 
  Deham ca naśvaram-avasthitam-utthitam vā
Line 58: Line 57:
 
     vāso yathā parikrtam madirā-madāndhah.
 
     vāso yathā parikrtam madirā-madāndhah.
  
This person of realization is not aware of the body that was an aid to realization—unconcerned if it remains by virtue of prārabdha, past actions that have started fruiting—just as a person inebriated with wine is unaware if his cloth is still on.<ref>Bhagavata, 11.13.36.</ref>
+
This person of realization is not aware of the body that was an aid to realization—unconcerned if it remains by virtue of ''prārabdha'', past actions that have started fruiting—just as a person inebriated with wine is unaware if his cloth is still on.<ref>Bhagavata, 11.13.36.</ref>
  
  
Line 66: Line 65:
 
     svāpnam punar-na bhajate pratibuddha-vastuh.
 
     svāpnam punar-na bhajate pratibuddha-vastuh.
  
As long as the prārabdha karma that  lead to the present embodiment lasts, the body (of the yogi of realization) will remain, together with the prānas, but the knowing one, who has attained the state of samadhi and realized the Truth, is no more at­tached to the body and its appurtenances, viewing them as (equivalent to) dream objects (11.13.37).
+
As long as the ''prārabdha'' karma that  lead to the present embodiment lasts, the body (of the yogi of realization) will remain, together with the prānas, but the knowing one, who has attained the state of samadhi and realized the Truth, is no more at­tached to the body and its appurtenances, viewing them as (equivalent to) dream objects (11.13.37).
  
  
About the liberated person who has transcended all desires, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says: ‘Tad-yathāhinirlvayanī valmīke mrtā pratyastā śayīta  evam-evedam śarīram śete athāyam-aśarīro’mrtah prāno brahmaiva teja eva; just as the lifeless slough of a snake is cast of and lies in the anthill, so does this body lie—then the self becomes disembodied and immortal, (becomes) the Prana (Supreme Self ), Brahman, the Light.’<ref>Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.7. </ref> In his commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Swami Vivekananda has de­scribed this state thus: ‘The Yogi (having reached this state) will become peaceful and calm, never to feel any more pain, never to be again deluded, never to be touched by misery. He will know he is ever blessed, ever perfect, almighty.’ <ref>The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1–8, 1989; 9, 1997),1.259.</ref>
+
About the liberated person who has transcended all desires, the ''Brihadaranyaka Upanishad'' says: ‘''Tad-yathāhinirlvayanī valmīke mrtā pratyastā śayīta  evam-evedam śarīram śete athāyam-aśarīro’mrtah prāno brahmaiva teja eva''; just as the lifeless slough of a snake is cast of and lies in the anthill, so does this body lie—then the self becomes disembodied and immortal, (becomes) the Prana (Supreme Self ), Brahman, the Light.’<ref>Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.7. </ref> In his commentary on Patanjali’s ''Yoga Sutra'' Swami Vivekananda has de­scribed this state thus: ‘The Yogi (having reached this state) will become peaceful and calm, never to feel any more pain, never to be again deluded, never to be touched by misery. He will know he is ever blessed, ever perfect, almighty.’ <ref>The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1–8, 1989; 9, 1997),1.259.</ref>
  
  

Revision as of 11:33, 22 April 2010

By Swami Alokananda


Brahman is Satchidananda—existence, knowledge, and bliss absolute—eternal, unchanging, without beginning or end, the plenitude of knowledge, devoid of all activ­ity, transcending all objective categories. Through its omnipotence, Shakti, it willed its own objec­tive manifestation. The indivisible ocean of con­sciousness was thrown into waves. Though every wave is part of the ocean, yet each is seen as a sep­arate independent entity. In like manner, the in­dividual soul, jiva—a wave in the limitless ocean of non­dual Satchidananda—conceives itself as independent out of ignorance, ajñāna or avidyā, becomes confined to the limited sphere of know­ledge, and is overcome by egotism. Release from this avidyā alone can bring fulflment in life. Only then is the jiva able to transcend the cycle of birth and death by being established in its own true Self. The Indian spiritual tradition has detailed different spiritual practices or sadhanas for practitioners of diverse temperaments to be established in the Self. We shall be taking a very brief look at the process of reaching the farthest reaches of insight, prajñā, as described by Maharshi Patanjali.


Ayurveda conceives the practice of the art of healing in terms of disease, its cause, health, and the means to health. The system of yoga, which aims at elimination of existential ills, also outlines its method under four heads: heya, the ill that has to be eliminated; heya-hetu, the cause of the ill; hāna, freedom from the ill; and hānopāya, the means to this freedom. Existence, characterized by sorrow, is itself the ill.[1] The union between the purusha, the seer, and the mind or intellect, buddhi, the seen, is the cause of the ill.[2] Permanent elimination of this attachment or ‘wrong identifcation’ is freedom,[3] and viveka-khyāti, discriminative knowledge de­void of all falsity, is the means to this freedom.[4]


That all worldly objects are sources of pain is a central dictum in yoga. Even apparently pleasurable objects lead to painful consequences. The identifca­tion of the Purusha with the mind is the source of the three kind of sorrows: ādhyātmika, physical and psychological; ādhibhautika, caused by other beings; and ādhidaivika, the natural calamities. Though eternally pure and unattached, the Purusha identi­fes itself with the mind or buddhi due to ajñāna. Just as a loving mother actually starts feeling the pain of her sick child and even thinks of herself as ill due to her attachment to the child, the Purusha too considers itself afflicted by the ills of the mind. So the sadhaka has to break this identifcation of the seer with the seen. The identifcation is the result of a lack of discrimination between the true identities of the seer and the seen. Hence the sadhaka has to cultivate discriminative knowledge, viveka-khyāti, about the seer and the seen through the practice of the eight­ limbed yoga. When this viveka-khyāti re­mains unimpeded by nescience or false knowledge the jiva attains prajñā, discriminative insight.


In his Yoga Sutra Maharshi Patanjali mentions several levels of prajñā, the ultimate discriminative insight derived from viveka-khyāti: ‘Tasya saptadhā prānta-bhūmih prajñā; to that person come seven forms of discriminative insight’ (2.27).


The first plane of prajñā marks the ultimacy of the sadhaka’s knowledge. Earlier, the sadhaka had something to know about the ills that he or she was trying to forsake. Now that need is extinguished. In the next stage the renunciant is established in the conviction that nothing further remains to be re­nounced. On reaching the third plane the sadhaka realizes that he or she has successfully accessed all the means to this detachment; nothing more re­mains to be acquired. When on the fourth plane, the sadhaka is convinced that having attained viveka-khyāti through samprajñāta samādhi he or she has reached the culmination of the practices for libera­tion and that nothing more remains to be done.


These four forms of prajñā constitute kārya-vimukti, liberation from action. They involve active practice. The next three planes involve dissolution of the citta, mindstuff, and together constitute citta-vimukti. As the yogi remains established in para-vairāgya, supreme renunciation, these three planes of prajñā unfold of their own accord.


The fifth form of prajñā brings with it the real­ization that the mind, having fulfilled its function, has become quiescent, and that sorrows born of vāsanās, desires and impulses, have come to an end. With the advent of the sixth discriminative insight the mindstuff, derived from the three gunas, starts disintegrating irreversibly: ‘like boulders dislodged from the top of a hill, the mind, along with its con­stituents, rushes unstoppably into dissolution—merger in its cause, Prakriti’. On the final plane the Purusha is restored to its own pristine state, de­void of all contact with the mind and its functions which have now undergone total dissolution.


The first plane marks the end of all jijñāsā, desire for knowing; the second of jihāsā, desire for giv­ing up; the third of prepsā, wish to obtain; and the fourth of cikīrsā, wish to do. The next three planes are characterized by the successive elimination of duhkha, bhaya, and vikalpa—sorrow, fear, and fi­nally all mental modifcations. In the Vedantic text Yogavasishtha, the sage Va­sishtha also speaks of seven stages of yoga:

Jñāna-bhūmih śubhecchākhyā 
    prathamā samudāhrtā;
Vicāranā dvitīyā syāt 
    trtīyā tanumānasā.
Sattvāpattiś-caturthī syāt- 
    tato’samsakti-nāmikā;
Padārthābhāvinī sasthī 
    saptamī turyagā smrtā.

The first stage of knowledge is called ‘goodwill’, the second is termed ‘discrimination’, and the third ‘at­tenuated mind’. The fourth stage is ‘self ­realization’, the fifth is named ‘detachment’, the sixth is the ‘ob­jectless’, and the seventh the ‘transcendent’.[5]


Renunciation of worldly attachments and ac­tivities through discrimination and cultivation of traits like restraint of the senses and the mind, ab­stinence from sensual thought, forbearance, faith, and meditation out of an intense desire for libera­tion constitute the first plane, Shubheccha. For­mally approaching a guru and undertaking study of and reflection on Vedantic dicta under his or her guidance is the second stage, Vicharana. The men­tal capacity to apprehend subtle spiritual truths, developed through practice of contemplation on Vedantic truths, nididhyāsana, marks the third plane, Tanumanasa. The fourth plane, Sattvapatti, is characterized by the non­dual realization of the oneness of Atman and Brahman, resulting from śravana—instruction on Vedantic mahāvākyas, comprehensive unitary statements, by a compe­tent teacher. When the mind practising nirodha, restraint, moves beyond objective or savikalpaka samadhi to nirvikalpaka samadhi, an objectless state, then it is said to have reached the fifth plane, termed Asamsakti. The permanent and steady es­tablishment in this state born of sustained effort on the previous planes is termed Padarthabhavini, the sixth plane. When the yogi is so established in Brahman, so soaked in the bliss of samadhi as never to return to a lower plane, either of one’s own ac­cord or through others’ efforts, then that yogi is on the ultimate plane, Turyaga.


The fourth plane signals Self ­realization, the first three being means to it. The last three planes are but diferent states of jīvanmukti, freedom while living:

Caturthī-bhūmikā jñānam 
    tisrah syuh sādhanam purā;
Jīvanmukter-avasthāstu 
    parās-tisrah prakīrtitāh.


Yogis happening to die while on any of the first three planes would have to be born again. They are not liberated because they are yet to attain jnana, though they have renounced karma. It is only those who are on the fourth or higher planes that are as­sured of videha-kaivalya, liberation from future embodiment. The Bhagavata has this to say about the external behaviour of the jīvanmukta yogi:

Deham ca naśvaram-avasthitam-utthitam vā
    siddho na paśyati yato’dhyagamat svarūpam;
Daivādapetam-uta daiva-vaśād-upetam
    vāso yathā parikrtam madirā-madāndhah.

This person of realization is not aware of the body that was an aid to realization—unconcerned if it remains by virtue of prārabdha, past actions that have started fruiting—just as a person inebriated with wine is unaware if his cloth is still on.[6]


Deho’api daiva-vaśagah khalu karma yāvat
    svārambhakam pratisamīksata eva sāsuh;
Tam saprapañcam-adhirūdha-samādhi-yogah
    svāpnam punar-na bhajate pratibuddha-vastuh.

As long as the prārabdha karma that lead to the present embodiment lasts, the body (of the yogi of realization) will remain, together with the prānas, but the knowing one, who has attained the state of samadhi and realized the Truth, is no more at­tached to the body and its appurtenances, viewing them as (equivalent to) dream objects (11.13.37).


About the liberated person who has transcended all desires, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says: ‘Tad-yathāhinirlvayanī valmīke mrtā pratyastā śayīta evam-evedam śarīram śete athāyam-aśarīro’mrtah prāno brahmaiva teja eva; just as the lifeless slough of a snake is cast of and lies in the anthill, so does this body lie—then the self becomes disembodied and immortal, (becomes) the Prana (Supreme Self ), Brahman, the Light.’[7] In his commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Swami Vivekananda has de­scribed this state thus: ‘The Yogi (having reached this state) will become peaceful and calm, never to feel any more pain, never to be again deluded, never to be touched by misery. He will know he is ever blessed, ever perfect, almighty.’ [8]


References

  1. ‘Heyam duhkham-anāgatam’; Yoga Sutra, 2.16.
  2. ‘Drastr-drśyayoh samyogo heya-hetuh’ (2.17).
  3. ‘Tad-abhāvāt samyogābhāvo hānam tad-drśeh kaivalyam’ (2.25).
  4. ‘Viveka-khyātir-aviplavā hānopāyah’ (2.26).
  5. Laghu-yoga-vasishtha, 13.113–14.
  6. Bhagavata, 11.13.36.
  7. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.7.
  8. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1–8, 1989; 9, 1997),1.259.


  • Originally published as "The Seven Planes of Prajñā" by Prabhuddha Bharata May 2009 edition. Reprinted with permission.