Brahma Jnana

Brahma means totality. What does sampoorna Brahma mean? Sampoorna means everything; you may drink a glass of water, but sampoorna refers to all the water in all the seas, ponds, lakes and wells in the world. You have taken only a glass out of all the water that exists in the world.

Socrates was a Brahma jnani. He would contemplate on Brahman, and he said only one thing: Know thyself. That was his basic principle. There was another Brahma jnani born in the last century in India: Ramana Maharshi. This south Indian boy had a strange experience one day – he felt as if he was dying. He lay down, but now a question appeared in his mind: ‘If I am dying, then who is the one watching me die? I am watching me die. How can it be that the one who is dying and the one who is watching are one and the same? No, they must be two different entities.’ Therefore, at the age of 12, he left his home and travelled to a sacred place in south India known as Tiruvannamalai. He lived there all his life. He did not have a guru and would not make disciples. He would ask only one thing of those who came to him: “Think ‘Who am I?’” This is a statement from the Upanishads.

Sri Shankaracharya says in Mohamudgara (v.22): Kastvam? Who are you? Ko ham? Who am I? Kuta aayaatah? Where have I come from? Kaa me jananee? Who is my mother? Ko me taatah? Who is my father? Iti paribhaavaya sarvamsaaram. Just contemplate on this.” This is the subject of Brahma jnana.

Socrates’ approach upset the Greek authorities, for the prevalent philosophies in Greece at that time did not believe in the existence of the soul. Greece is the mother of material science just as India is the mother of spiritual science. They believed that matter is the ultimate reality. Socrates was ultimately disposed of, as he was speaking of something different from the beliefs of material science.

Prashna Upanishad says that there are two sciences: spiritual and material, para and apara. Para vidya is spirituality and apara vidya is materialism. It is difficult to reconcile the two. The West represents materialism, and that is what is taught in schools and colleges today: history, geography and mathematics. Material science does not believe in existence after death. It believes that death is the end of existence and birth is the beginning of existence. Academically and philosophically, material science does not believe in the continuity of self. This was the subject on which Buddha’s follower Nagarjuna and Alexander debated. Alexander asked, “How can the soul be eternal? The spirit is limited.” Nagarjuna did not have an answer to this, for he was Buddha’s follower. Buddha also believed that the soul has a limited existence. This is a subject that requires deep contemplation; it is not a small matter.

If a candle is burning for six hours, is its flame continuous? The flame is a continuity of light particles. When a flame burns and flickers, it has a continuity which is called the tip of the flame, shikha. The process is the same as in a film: it has 32 or 62 frames but you see them in continuity. The flame also moves from one flicker to the next in a sequence, in continuity. This is the definition of the soul in Madhyamic philosophy and this is where Alexander netted Nagarjuna. So, in Greek philosophy, Buddhist philosophy and material science, the form of the soul that has been decided upon is this.

Vedanta, however, says that the soul is eternal. The spirit is not made by a joining of life particles. The spirit is homogeneous. Yo ve bhuma, tat sukshma. “That is bhuma, and it is subtle.” Bhuma, another term for Brahman, means the whole. The whole is not made of parts. The whole is Brahman, and its realization is called Brahma jnana.