Spiritual Practices only Purify. Self-Knowledge (Jñāna-Yoga) alone Liberates (35)


Lesson 35 explains why only Self-Knowledge can remove ignorance of original “I AM” (Ātman). Then outlines 4 stages all humans go through in their spiritual sadhana. None are exception. We also learn practical suggestions given to Arjuna (common householder) by Śrī Kṛṣṇa (God) to firmly establish oneself as “I AM” (Ātma). Based on Bhagavad Gita CH 5, verse 16-17.

  • Revision of what is Īśvara (worry not – Īśvara will be revised repetitively for fuller comprehension)
    • Why is Īśvara key to mokṣa (Liberation)? Imagine you're told all about the Self (Ātman) and Jīva (person). But knowledge of Īśvara remains a mystery. Example of typical belief: God is directly responsible for all that happens in this world.
      Will such a person, despite their accurate and śāstra (scriptural) consistent knowledge of “I AM”, ever find peace and true freedom (assuming one's mind is constantly wondering in the background “Who and what is God!”)? Such person won't even find peace in a dream. Because ignorance of Īśvara even carries over into one's dream.
      Long as mind remains agitated by THAT which pervades it (IE: Īśvara: all knowledge, all power), it will be fearful of mokṣa. Why?… 
      Because ahaṃ kāra (doer/enjoyer) is enjoying retaining it's separate sense of existence from the WHOLE (Brahman). It can't bear negating itself for something which it doesn't have knowledge of.
      Hence knowledge of Īśvara is indeed for the ahaṃ kāra. One can't win over one's ego, because even the winning is also done/enjoyed by the ego. Only can only educate it with knowledge of Truth. Which is the entire purpose of Bhagavad Gītā.
      Just look how many doubts Arjuna (symbol of every spiritual seeker) has and how long it takes Kṛṣṇa (symbol of Īśvara revealing Truth) to sooth and educate Arjuna's confused, fearful and doubtful ahaṃ kāra.
      It's not just matter of saying “You're Awareness Ajruna. All is One! All else is māyā, a belief, a dream!”. This kind of Neo-Advaita (modern stripped out Advaita Vedanta) as expounded by thousands of “guru's” today, are indeed doing their best to expound Truth, but only half of it.
      It's like walking out half way through your pilot training. You'll still fly, but with half ignorance, unknowingly, until plane experiences real-life turbulence… then one is forced to acknowledge, “I have no clue how to SOLVE this!”. One is then forced to find a complete teaching which goes into thorough detail of Īśvara/Māyā (equivalent).
  • Freewill
    • Freedom to EXERCISE one's will. Only to capacity of education. Lack of education removes options, thus seems like no freedom to will.
    • Word “Freewill” is used in context of a human using one's intellect to discriminate A from B from C. Then takes action (using one's limited knowledge) based on rational conclusion which will lead to most appropriate result for the presented scenario. (EG: Should I apologize just to let it slide or explain my actions before apologizing? Should I eat meat or settle for vegan? Should I __”)
      Whether A/B/C is “predestined” or not, is irrelevant in practical matters. Point is, one can stop and think what consequences A/B/C will have.
  • Bhagavad Gītā CH 5, verse 15:
  • All problems > CAUSE > Ignorance of Higher.
    • EG: Person in dream suffering. Getting advice how to improve his dream.
  • In reality, I AM comfortably lying in bed. Safe. Untouched by the dream.
  • Dream suffering belongs to Lower Dream Identity (ahaṃ kāra).
  • Dream aspirant > Dream guru > “Actually free of this character”, says guru to dream aspirant > “I don't feel like it”, replies dream aspirant > “Doesn't matter. Feeling belongs to Dream. The Awareness of that feeling *IS* the Dreamer in Bed, who is your Higher Self (Ātman). Worship the Awareness of your feelings/thoughts. Stop worshipping all day, “How I feel, what I think”.
    • CAUTION 1: Refuse to subscribe to mind's tendency to create image that HIGHER Self is in some location, as above example may elicit. The dreamer in bed pervades the entire dream, including the dream guru, and dream spiritual aspirant, including the dream Advaita Vedanta knowledge. In fact, the entire dream world (jagat) is pervaded by the ONE single dreamer (metahore for Brahman).
    • CAUTION 2: Refuse to think of Brahman as “dreamer in bed”, as per example above. Brahman is Awareness, which has no attributes. Meaning it has no attributes of sleeping, non-sleeping, dreaming, non-dreaming. Brahman is THAT because of which every character (including you/me) in the dream is AWARE of itself and the world (jagat dream).
    • CAUTION 3: Having read CAUTION 2, refuse to subscribe to common error: “Ah! So this sense of “I” is Brahman!”. Common trap. Because the sense of “I AM” is ahaṃ kāra. Not Brahman.
      • Brahman is the non-participating, non-interfering, ungraspable, non-verbalized principle of Knowledge. The illuminator of “I AM” experience.
  • To reflect:
    • Śankara Maniśa Pancakam (5 verses): I am paramātma (Brahman) > Created Whole Universe > Also bodies (including your's, the one reading this) > Having created, I choose (by help of Māyā) to come down > identify with body > play drama
    • Don't take above literally. You're supposed to extract the implied meaning, which is never mentioned directly. The implied meaning is “If my truth is Brahman, which is the Truth of entire existence, then why am I choosing to subscribe lifetime after lifetime to pain of birth, victimhood and death! Why do I keep trading ephemeral pleasure experiences in this world, at expense of claiming my limitless nature. It is my highest DUTY to claim my true identity, in THIS LIFETIME… no matter how much I sacrifice!”.
      One must make an assertive and strong decision to devote every breath to helping Self-Knowledge be firmly established. Else drama of light and dark continues.
  • Person temporarily wakes up in Vedanta class > Goes out > back to sleep.
    • Solution: Make jñāna-yoga priority. Absorbed.
    • How? Ask your teacher for recommended Advaita Vedānta texts, which should have commentaries. Then read 1-2 verses a day and contemplate on what the commentaries are saying. EG: Just reading Bhagavad Gītā direct translation is fine, but it's much more useful with commentaries what they mean.
  • Result of body-identification: Spatially (Travel) / Timewise bound (Life is short! Many things do).


  • Bhagavad Gītā, CH 5, verse 16:
  • If ignorance cause of problem – what's solution? Ignorance removed. EG: If bacteria responsible for pain, remove!
  • Antibiotics for ignorance bacteria? Jñānam.
    • Darkness is equated to a disease which needs to be removed. And what is the only “thing” in existence that's opposed to Darkness? Light.
    • Imagine being born inside a dark room. How many methods can remove this darkness? Chanting? Meditating? Philosophical conversations, Kundalini, Feeling God, Affirmations, Asanas?
    • 2 Facts Established:
      • Only ONE principle is opposed to Darkness, Light.
      • Action NOT opposed to darkness.
    • Objection: Isn't Advaita Vedanta an action also? Yes.
      • Action (karma) has benefit true to object it's intended for. Own results.
        • EG: Action of Physics, parenting, mindfullness > removes THAT ignorance.
        • Can Mindfullness (sharp clear mind) knowledge remove Physics ignorance?. Helps.
        • Can Mindfullness/chanting knowledge REMOVE Self-Ignorance?
          • No. Mokṣa only has 1 path (not path because path implies it's away from me. But Self-Knowledge is revealing that which I already have right here and NOW): jñāna-yoga.
  • Conclusion: karma-yoga, bhakti, raja leads to Liberation > None acceptable to Krsna, nor Vedas.
    • Many purify. jñāna-mārga-eva Liberates.
  • Specific knowledge is needed for mokṣa. brahmavidyā, jñāna-yoga. Through self-knowledge alone, ignorance removed.
    • EG: Archaeology knowledge won't destroy calculus ignorance.
    • How to gain?
      • Answered CH4, 34: Systematic, consistent study of Vedanta, for length of time, under guidance of competent āchāryā.
      • What will this do?
        • V16, line 2: Knowledge Reveals Self. Just like torch reveals Object.
          • Self: I am ever full, security, pure, independent, unborn, deathless, limitless.


  • Bhagavad Gītā, CH 5, verse 17:
    • Talks of various stages of sādhanā, each person must go through.

STAGE 1: tat parāyanāḥ

  • My own independent Self is the ultimate goal of life. And I need direction to help me get there.
  • Problem: right now, ahaṃ kāra depends on external objects for it's (1) happiness (2) security.
    • How to know this is true for you?
      • Do you find yourself unable to accept everything about you (good/bad)?
      • Do you find it hard to accept your partner/parents/children? Have complaint(s) about them? Why? Because ahaṃ kāra gains enjoyment by having those objects which it's attached to (eg: family), to match it's rāga/dveṣa (likes / dislikes).
        • Thus willingness to change/modify/manipulate the world (including family), usually has LITTLE to do with their good, and MORE to do with my ahaṃ kāra's good.
          • There is exception to above statement – but only if you can honestly conclude that there's truly zero attachment to the object you're involved with. In this case, mind can function out of clarity of what's needed in the moment, instead of functioning out of it's rāga/dveṣa.
  • In this stage, one makes a statement out of dissatisfaction with the world/Self/God: “I want to be free from all this!”. Since Brahman (consciousness) is already free, and everything is consciousness, we can't help but to constantly make attempts to FREE ourselves from worries, desires, illness, everything!”.
    • This is exactly what mokṣa is: Capacity to be comfortable even when situation is not per my expectations. Just like Ocean doesn't depend on rivers for it's fullness. Since all the rivers are from the Ocean, and all go back into the Ocean, one way or another.
  • If river tells Ocean “You need me for your fullness/happiness”, Ocean laughs. Because Ocean knows all water comes from it, which falls as rain and makes rivers, which all go back to Ocean if not directly (by flow), then indirectly (by evaporation).
    • This is what wise person knows directly: I am like the Ocean. And rivers are like experiences (bonus, but not needed since I'm already full).
  • This stage is about releasing the struggle to constantly change the world and environment to suit my likes/dislikes. One just gives up, realizing how fruitless and tiring it is.
  • At this stage, one realizes, the REAL struggle is to Realize my Self. But how? This is where Stage 2 comes in…

STAGE 2: tadbuddayaḥ

  • Person comes in contact with śāstra (meaning: Bhagavad Gītā, Upaniṣads, Brahma Sūtras) in order to know about paramātma (Brahman), by means of ātma-jñānam / brahmavidyā / jñāna-yoga. He/she begins learning, listening, watching, thinking about, meditating upon.

STAGE 3: tadātmānaḥ

  • After having seen, explained to, heard of and contemplated upon the knowledge of Self as gained in Stage 2, one notices: Even after knowing my higher Self as myself, I don't identify with it. I keep identifying with Lower Self (ahaṃ kāra). “I AM __”.
    • Why is this? Strong habits called: deha-vāsanās. Just like divorced couples quickly go back to old ways (even 15 years of being together), so too does educated Scriptures seeker continue identifying with “I AM __” (ahaṃ kāra)
    • Conclusion: I am a saṃsāri. I have a Higher Self, and THAT Ātma is Liberated!
  • Stage 3 is about shifting the “I”. How?
    • Train myself to switch from Lower to Higher.
    • This training takes longest time. Knowing Higher Self is easy. It's the complete identification with it, that's the 99.9% of work.
      • For this reason, we have sannyāsa aśrama, in order to facilitate not having ahaṃ kāra constantly triggered by ongoing contact with world/people.
    • As a gṛhasta aśrama (householder), how does one deal with daily duties, without accidentally reinforcing ahaṃ kāra to be the “I”?
      • By DECIDING to play a role in whatever situation you find yourself in. Remind yourself every once in a while. It doesn't have to be done while the role is playing out.
        • This role playing is called: nididhyāsana-tadātmānaḥ

STAGE 4: tan niṣṭhāh

    • During the constant reminding that you (Ātman) is only playing a role in order to attend to worldly duties, one ALSO beings DELIBERATELY PRACTICING Objectivity. Example…
      • “This Body is only incidental equipment I use”
      • “These sense organs are instruments of this Body”
      • “This Mind-Intellect is a media through which “I” (Ātma) operates through.”
      • “I am NOT the Instrument. I am the Consciousness BEHIND the instruments”.
    • When this deliberate practice is continuously practiced, it leads to spontaneous “it just is”. Meaning it leads to inner transformation over a gradual period.
      • When this transformation is complete and “I am Consciousness behind the instruments” is spontaneous, we then call this: tan niṣṭhāh


  1. Find sees the value of discovering the Higher. “Freedom!”
  2. One pursues the goal of Freedom.
  3. One learns to identify with Higher. And gradually dis-identify with Lower. Shifting “I”, role-playing.
  4. Identifying with Higher eventually becomes NATURAL/Spontaneous.
  • What do these 4 stages amount to? jñānanirdhūtakalmaṣāḥ
    • One is freed of impurities, washed away by Self-Knowledge.
    • ajñāna-samśayā-viparyayaḥ: Ignorance-doubt-habitual identification, are WIPED OUT!
    • To describe such a person, we give it name: jīvanmuktiḥ (Liberated while living)
      • jīvanmuktiḥ bodies dies when prārabdha-karma is finished.
        • Upon body death of a jīvanmuktiḥ, a new name is given: videhamukti (meaning: one is now, as always is, Brahman (limitless – “like infinite awareness/happiness that's unceasingly aware/happy of awareness/happiness as itself), never again to be apparently conditioned by flesh/matter).

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching is given to Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 5 Feb, 2019


  1. Because ahaṃ kāra (doer/enjoyer) is enjoying retaining it’s separate sense of existence from the WHOLE (Brahman). It can’t bear negating itself for something which it doesn’t have knowledge of.
    This is where I find myself Andre.
    I can’t yet see how an existence without qualities is preferable to one with qualities.
    If Moksa means that after death I will be nothing but awareness, how will I know that I am aware of I no longer have Atman, individualised Brahman that reflects its awareness in the three bodies?
    I know I am missing something really important because the same question keeps occurring to me and I don’t have an answer.

    1. ======
      If Moksa means that after death I will be nothing but awareness, how will I know that I am aware of I no longer have Atman, individualised Brahman that reflects its awareness in the three bodies?

      What is the nature of awareness? Limitlessness.

      What is limitlessness? It means nothing is missing. All knowledge, all power.

      Whereas individual called Robert is limited knowledge, limited power.

      There is misconception that Awareness is empty or nothing.

      We separate “objects” as reality 1. And “awareness” as reality 2.

      Then we can’t imagine reality 2 without reality 1.

      This is incorrect thinking. It’s dividing the ONE reality into TWO (dvaita).

      Everything IS Awareness.

      “Objects” are not separate from Awareness.

      Suppose wood is the final reality…

      Is the chair-object separate from it’s cause, the wood?

      Is the table-object separate from it’s cause, the wood?

      They are names-forms appearing as wood alone. But don’t know it (ajñāni).

      So to compensate their apparent limitation of being one single name-form, the chair marries the table. They accumulate wooden money and takes security in a wooden house. 🙂

      One day the chair breaks (death). The table cries wooden tears.

      Has the chair gone out of wood? No. Where will “it” go when “it” is nothing but the ONE wood… the ONE reality of the entire wooden universe.


      Mokṣa is understanding that everything that is here is ONE reality appearing as the many. And this ONE doesn’t exclude the person who has this understanding (called jñāni).

      The seeker (chair) is the sought (wood).

      You already ARE the ONE beginningless reality appearing as the entire universe… right now.

      So where is question of “I no longer have Atman”? You are the whole now. You are the one same whole after Robert-form breaks one fine day. Except no longer limited to just Robert body-mind. But remains as the limitless whole, never again to take up a decaying, aging body-mind.

  2. Thanks Andre.
    I need to contemplate this.
    My wrong thinking was coming from many years of Buddhist study.
    Inadvertently I have been acquainting Atma with Emptiness.
    Your explanation is clear, but my understanding of it comes and goes like a pulse.
    I will reread many times.

    1. It’s actually one of most common misconceptions: If Consciousness is just conscious, then if I die, I won’t be conscious of anything! That doesn’t sound fun. I’d then rather be reborn over and over again.

  3. Hi Andre !!
    Can you please let me know what Vedanta or scriptures instructed for sexual enjoy !!
    Is it good or bad ? Is it ok before marriage or prohibited? How to give this knowledge to children when they becomes teens about this sex ? As this is very complex age for teens ,So how to give guidance on this

    Please give guidance!!

    1. Tarun, regarding sexuality, that’s person’s choice. Vedanta is neither for, nor against anything. Because things like sexuality are actually value NEUTRAL. It’s only one’s personal likes/dislikes that give it more value then it deserves; thereby giving it unnecessary importance or emphasis in life.

      And in opposite end, some traditions take its value out; thereby calling it “evil/prohibited or to-be-avoided”.

      Both are distortions.

      Furthermore, sex before/after marriage, is not matter of right/wrong. But matter of, what makes sense to the individual according to their culture, and personal views.

      SUMMARY: Vedanta isn’t about creating rigid dictates of “do this, don’t do that”. But rather encouraging you to intelligently pursue things that you value.

      As for giving this knowledge to children, that’s up to each parent/society. Vedanta is about you; not others-out-there (including own family members).

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