Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The First Sentence of the Brahm Sutras

Notwithstanding my rejection of spirituality, the first sentence of the venerable Brahm Sutras, one of the principal texts of Vedanta, the non-dualist stream of Hindu philosophy, is a sledgehammer of an injunction to anyone who is regressing into complacency and is proceeding towards living an unexamined life (1).

The sentence is just two words:
अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा (Athato Brahm-Jigyasa)
Its meaning is simply this: "Now at last inquire after the supreme."

And the simplicity of this injunction is its power. The injunction has been interpreted in various ways. Whether it is about the opportunity offered by one being born as a human being, or whether it is about having had enough of mindless gratifications, or whether it is a rejection of all superficial knowledge (of rituals etc.) in favor of knowing the Absolute, can be debated.

Similar to the intent of this sentence was the letter written to me by my erstwhile spiritual teacher (translated here in English):
Sri Satguru Parmatmane Namah, Shivo Hum

Beloved Atman,

Nature had given to man in every way: an organized body, subtle intelligence, understanding, beautiful eyes, clear receiving ears, sensitive skin, nostrils etc.; it had given him all the organs, and it had provided him with enough time to evolve. He was given a good environment, great awakened ones were made available to him. He could have enkindled his own lamp with the light of theirs,

But what happened to him?

This body as your part,
Swami X Y

(1): The unexamined life is not worth living (Apology by Plato, attributed to Socrates)


onlyne said...

A beautiful post and I resonate with it entirely. Truly, a sledgehammer is needed to jolt us out of our complacent approach to the wonder and gift of existing. I don't really understand what you mean by rejection of spirituality, since our life is one and not broken into two( material and spiritual).....and would you classify Socrates injunction to "know thyself" as spiritual or non-spiritual?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi onlyne, as for my rejection of spirituality, may I refer you to:


And as for Socrates' injunction to "know thyself", Socrates did not give any indication that he had extinguished his self and his passions, so he was implicitly spiritual. Actual Freedom is entirely new for humankind.

onlyne said...

In which sense do you use the term spirituality and was Socrates less than wise in consuming the hemlock? Why should anybody want to extinguish self or passions? Isn't it enough not to be enslaved by them?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi onlyne:

May I refer you to:


And as for not being enslaved by the passions, there is no entity other than the one comprising the passions. "I" am my passions. But if there is the possibility of a total freedom from passions while they still exist as a vestigial organ which doesn't affect any other organ in the body, that would be good enough for me.

If passions are there, then there needs to be constant vigilance and control and frequently that vigilance and control will slip up. That is not freedom.

Freedom is when there is no /possibility/, nil, nada, zilch, naught, of anything dirty happening in this body/brain.

onlyne said...

Freedom is when there is no /possibility/, nil, nada, zilch, naught, of anything dirty happening in this body/brain

As a film enthusiast you may have seen The Last Temptation of Christ.
The buddha struggled with Mara the temptor. Goethe's drama Faust portrays a similar situation The meaning of life is precisely in this ongoing battle, and the freedom you describe in your above quoted para seems achievable in the grave alone. And rather dull, if you ask me, this eternal bliss. And, for argument's sake ,even if one does achieve it ,what next? Is there a next goal?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi onlyne, Actual Freedom is entirely new to human experience, and the past religious teachers, saviors and saints were not actually free. They were not living in perfection.

May I suggest that you go through the AFT website, especially the following two sections, before you ask me to answer such questions as you have been asking for the past few days:



Thank you,

onlyne said...

"Hi onlyne, Actual Freedom is entirely new to human experience......May I refer you to:...."

I find your writing interesting, so I visit your blog. Your ideas are provocative. However as a believer and in the belief system, which I think you are, it would be more interesting to hear it straight from you......I did check up the pages you referred but so far I am not sufficiently motivated to invest time in perusing the same.....I think you would be serving your movement better by providing simple pithy answers to simple questions instead of "it's all given in the book" --- even precise quotations would be better, since you must be more than familiar. Otherwise its like referring a KG student to read theory of relativity, or a missionary answering every question by referring to the holy book. As it seems the site you refer looks like another machinery of confabulation. Most of your answers are full stops without a sentence. A one sided, one way traffic.

Harmanjit Singh said...

"so far I am not sufficiently motivated to invest time in perusing the same"

# Then let's wait till you are.

And to put matters straight, AF is not a belief system, it is not a "movement", and the AFT website is not a holy text but is simply a repository of articles and discussions between people much more motivated than you to understand and free themselves of the human condition without prematurely dismissing the words on that side as "a machinery of confabulations"

But then, you are free to ignore the website and my suggestions to read some specified pages on that website. It's your life after all.

You can join http://groups.yahoo.com/group/acualfreedom if you have questions regarding the content of the website and/or are perplexed.

Perplexity is understandable, premature dismissal is perhaps indicative of your own belief systems.


onlyne said...

Your search - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/acualfreedom - did not match any documents.


•Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
•Try different keywords.
•Try more general keywords.

Harmanjit Singh said...

i'm sorry, the correct url is:


onlyne said...

What does AFT have to say about the phenomenon of death? Can you please refer me to the specific AFT page(not the discussion group since the discussion is already going on for the last 10,000 years)?

Harmanjit Singh said...


srid said...


Also see the FAQ entry:

"How can you be certain there is no life after death?" - http://actualfreedom.com.au/sundry/frequentquestions/FAQ41.htm

And perhaps also:

"Why question the spiritual teachings?" - http://actualfreedom.com.au/sundry/frequentquestions/FAQ02.htm

onlyne said...


Et tu, Brute?