CHENNAI: The definitive teaching of the Vedas is in the Upanishads which are their final portion, and hence this teaching is popularly known as Vedanta. The teaching in this is about the Self (Brahman, Atman), and the Upanishads adopt two distinct methods to explain it. The first way is to summarise the entire philosophy in pithy statements and the other is the method of elaboration wherein the nuances are explained for clarity. Both these approaches are necessary in the pursuit of any knowledge.

In his discourse, Sri K.Srinivasan said the commentary on the aphorism of Jaimini’s Purva Mimamsa (“Then therefore enquiry into Dharma.”) stated that it was necessary to know Adharma also so that an individual could refrain from violating the principles of Dharma. Similarly, when the Self becomes the topic of discussion in the Upanishads and in the Brahmasutras, the non-Self is also explained. In the pursuit of the study of the Self, the individual becomes both the subject and the object of knowledge. Hence it is not possible to explain spiritual knowledge in an explicit manner as in the case of other disciplines and its understanding depends on the relationship between the Guru and the disciple. The disciple has to grasp it when the Guru guides him step by step in this enquiry.

Sankara’s Dakshinamurti stotra best captures the process of imparting Self-knowledge. It states that the Guru (Dakshinamurti) is youthful while his disciples are old, and when he teaches the truth in silence the doubts of the disciples get resolved. Why is Self-knowledge taught in silence? Whatever is articulated automatically becomes “other than the Self.” So Self-knowledge is to be experienced and cannot be taught. It is to emphasise this mystery that Upanishads like the Mundaka and the Brihadaranyaka say that Self-knowledge must be learnt in silence. Self-enquiry then involves directing the mind inward after leaving aside all the distractions of the world. How does one achieve this mental turnaround? The spiritual seeker must be able to categorise everything that he experiences into the Self and the non-Self so that he becomes conscious that without the “I” there is no knowledge.