Benefits of Brahman Knowledge
The Vedas reveal the Oneness of me and the Universe (http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/the-gold-ring-bangle/). There are numerous terms for this knowledge of oneness in Sanskrit and English: Self-Knowledge = Knowledge of Truth = Non-dual wisdom = Enlightenment = Self-Realisation = God-Realisation = Jiva-Ishvara-Aikyam = Brahma-jnanam = Atma-jnanam = Knowledge of Consciousness = Understanding the Infinite = Tattva-bodha = Discovering my true nature, etc. The list goes on! Point is – these are all really talking about the same Self-Knowledge. Even other great teachers from non-hindu traditions use similar terminology. This is not surprising as the Truth must be the same for all humanity, regardless of religion, age, caste, sex, nationality. Oneness (Advaita) must include everyone and everything else it is not oneness. Oneness must be all embracing, account for all phenomena in this Universe, including science and perception. To know oneness of myself and the world in the form of consciousness is Self-Knowledge.
From this, 2 questions may arise:
How do I gain this Self-Knowledge?
The Shastra (Vedic Scripture) says there are two key factors required to gain Self-Knowledge – a proper teaching and a proper teacher.
Proper teaching – this is in the form of the sentences of the Vedanta teaching (Vedanta-vakya). I.e. the words of the Vedas (Upanishad) and the Bhagavad Gita. Why? Because Vedanta systematically unfolds the one-ness between you and this entire Universe, leaving the student with no doubts about the truth of this after the student has adequately exposed themselves to the teaching. This ‘Advaita Vedanta’, Non-dual (oneness) Vedic Knowledge, is unique to the Vedas.
Proper teacher – The above teaching in Vedanta can’t merely be understood by reading a book unfortunately. It is too subtle and easily mis-interpreted. Therefore, a Guru is required to teach Vedanta to the student (sat-guru-updesha). A Guru must have studied Vedanta from another Guru (Srotriya). Also, a Guru must be a ‘sat-guru’, or a ‘good Guru’. What’s a ‘good’ Guru? A teacher who does not interfere with the Vedanta teaching is considered a ‘Good’. Interference can be in the form of misinterpreting, adding their own personal opinion or philosophy to the original teaching. A good teacher should not add their own opinion whilst teaching, as this interferes with the precise and brilliant method of the Vedanta teaching contained in the words of the Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita. The teaching must not be changed from what is told in the Vedas or Gita, due to the carefully crafted method in which the Scriptures unfold this knowledge of non-duality to us. Hence, a good teacher will always quote the Scripture to support their statements and teach the traditional texts.
Once the above factors are present and the student is emotionally matured enough to receive the wisdom having lived a life of Dharma; then the understanding of Brahman (consciouness) arises (brahma-buddhih utpanna) in the mind of the student. This results in the student seeing Brahman in himself/herself and in all other beings. I see (understand) Brahman everywhere I look. I see nothing other than Brahman. In what form do I see Brahman? In the form of Consciousness, as taught in Vedanta. This is Self-Knowledge. E.g. just like a ring after gaining ‘self-knowledge’ sees itself as Gold, it sees gold in place of the necklace, and gold in place of the bangle. Everything is Gold, Gold, Gold…there is only Gold! The name and form (nama-rupa) of the ring/bangle/necklace is superficial (mithya)…it is not the essential substance (satyam) like Gold is. Hence in place of name and form, I see only the substance. And the substance of the Universe is Consciousness/Brahman.
What is the benefit of me gaining Self-Knowledge (Jnana-Phala)?
For those people, who see (understand) Brahman in themselves and everywhere, they become ‘liberated’. Mukta. Free. Free from what? Free from Samsara. Samsara = Problems, worries, anxieties, fear, sadness, disease, separation, want, longing, loneliness, insecurity. Anything I do not want in life is Samsara. And Self-Knowledge frees me from this. How? Simple – if I realise I do not have a body/mind, then none of the problems of the body/mind are there either
When will I gain this Freedom? After death? I have Samsara right now, so I want freedom now, not later?! Yes true. In fact, the Vedas very clearly say freedom is available ‘right now’ (iha-eva). You do not need to wait till after death, or to go to some special heaven….you can be free now, whilst you are alive. This is why it is called ‘jivan-mukti’ or ‘liberation whilst living’.
May we all become liberated whilst living!
Om Tat Sat,