Gems from Chinmayananda – The Spiritual Inanity series, Part I

A foreword and apology:

Regardless of one’s motives and persuasions, if any work is capable of attracting the charge of sacrilege, one is bound by humility to seek commiseration and indulgence well in advance from one’s perceived targets of raillery. Though the intention here is to engage in the sallies of satirical sport, and all exertion of thought and word is in the celebration of parody, one may yet fall foul of the sensibilities and sensitivities of the religious and spiritual species.

By declaring one’s highest disregard for the theological and spiritual scholasticism of Chinmayananda, but yet striving to desist from conveying the impression of irreverence, we launch into reproducing the following couplets of spiritual poesy from this bard of Vedantic mysticism.

The verse that Chinmayananda is commenting about:

The quote that I try to analyze is from his commentary to Verse 16 in Chapter V of “Bhagavad Gita” or verse 5.16 which is literally translated by him as:

“But to those whose ignorance is destroyed by the Knowledge of the Self, like the Sun, to them Knowledge reveals the Supreme (Brahman)

The Quote from Chimayananda’s commentary on the above verse:

“Similarly the ego (jeeva) looking upto the Aatman finds that ignorance is enveloping the Infinite. This ignorance is not in Truth, just as the clouds are never in the Sun. The finite ignorance is certainly a limited factor compared with the infinitude of Reality. And yet the mist of self-forgetfulness that hangs in the chambers of the heart gives ego the false notion that the Spiritual Reality is enveloped by ignorance. When this ignorance is removed, the Self becomes manifest, just as when the cloud has moved away, the Sun becomes manifest”

The analysis begins into the ‘poetry’ and confusion of the finite and infinite

Lets delve into the poetry, or may we say the poetastry of this quote. The ego and the Aatman are personified. We believe with all the risk of being Cloudreprobated with ignorance that Aatman refers to the soul. Did we forget that the Infinite is personified too. Now what is this Infinite and how is ignorance enveloping it. Not being blessed with the acuity of this sage, we must wonder in the distress of our dim faculties, why ignorance is not personified.

Oh! for the glory of hyperbole, does ignorance shroud the Infinite in its vainglory. Then we see not, that the Infinite is finite or is it that finite is Infinite. But then in the glorious uncertainties of spiritual journey, even the Infinite is not infinite. Now does the confounded soul see 2 infinites, one that is personal and the other that is impersonal?

Fie on thee! Thou blind muse of parody, do thy not seest where the poesy ends and where sagacity begins?. And Lo behold! even the astral spectacle is lost on you!. Do you need a mind’s eye to see an eclipse unfolding in darkening brilliance, the eclipse of the Infinite by ignorance, to which the jeeva and the Aatman are mute witnesses. But yet we are told that the jeeva is looking up to the Aatman.

Situation of the Aatman and hide-and-seek of the Sun and the clouds

Now we are not sure whether the Aatman is inside or outside, because one may look into the inside from the outside and the outside from the inside, or is it that we can look into the inside from the inside and the outside from the outside. All we perceive is that there are 2 sides or maybe many sides to spiritual insight. Or is it outsight?

Then we are consoled or maybe reprimanded by the sage that this ignorance that is enveloping the Infinite is not in Truth. He then brings in all the power of simile to remind us that this is just the same as that the clouds are never in the Sun.

How gullible of us to think that clouds are in the Sun! Why even worse we were thinking that the Sun is in the clouds. After this we are certain of the situation of neither the Sun nor the clouds. Even if the Sun may be in the clouds, clouds are surely not in the Sun, the inveteracy of the latter truth being clearly proclaimed by the Gurudev. Lo and behold, this Truth is now as clear as daylight with no clouds to darken it.

More poetic assault from the Gurudev and competition for Wordsworth

infinityWhile this Truth sinks in slowly, we now have to contend with finite ignorance being compared to the infinitude of Reality. What is Reality, this other beast of personification that is battling for primacy with the Infinite? What answers are being revealed to us here? Is the Reality infinite or is the Infinite the reality? Let’s not be so impatient, for the reason, if not the answer unfolds in the very next line. We are explained ever so lucidly that the finite ignorance cannot comprehend the infinitude of Reality because the “mist of self-forgetfulness that hangs in the chambers of the heart gives ego the false notion that the Spiritual Reality is enveloped by ignorance”. Here in the union of poetic flight with spiritual garbling, where Wordsworth meets Jiddu Krishnamurti, the doors of Spiritual Reality are thrown open by the Gurudev to the dim vision of mortals. While we pray for the peace of Wordsworth’s soul, we see his gentle mists now buffeted by the storms of self-forgetfulness that are now swirling, oops! hanging in the gas chambers of the heart. Lest we be accused of furthering greater profanity, we stop short of the appellation of the “concentration camps” of the heart seizing the ego in the fascist grip of finite ignorance.

Our ‘respectful adieu to this ‘gem’ of a commentary

We see that there is a also manifestation of the Self, amidst all this infestation of the Reality, the Infinite, the finite and the motley crowd of the jeeva and the Aatman, but in our infinitude of ignorance, we must lay to rest for now our tribute to this eye-opener of a commentary.

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Ranganath R writes critically of religion and spiritualism on his blog Critical Sagacity.

About the author

Ranganath R

An accountant and a man of commerce by background and education, I am a Business Applications analyst by work and profession. I am a lover of diverse intellectual pursuits and interests. I have over time cultivated interests in literature, history and social sciences.

In terms of beliefs, I have had in the past my share of swings between irrationality and rationality. As hopefully thinking processes and impulses mature, I am learning to cultivate the faculty of examining all systems and forms of thought and opinions, in whatever it is received and only accept those that accords with reason, logic and understanding.


  • Simply wonderful!
    Spirituality, thy name is infinite confusion!
    Or maybe that is my finite brain causing the confusion! Will getting rid of the brain help my atman to be set free in the reality of the infinitude and rid the confusion? But, then how will “I” know that the confusion(?) has been rid? If the atman is part of the eternal Brahman, does that mean that parts of the eternal Brahman are confused?….oops! Now my head is reeling with eternal confusion! or maybe I am just ignorant! On the other hand, ignorance is bliss! OM!

  • He’s simply saying that your “self” is just an idea, not a truth.When you ask who I am, what I do, where I live, I can give you information, but all of them are derived terms, labels for convenince’s sake.

    money,art..practically everything that we call “The World” is a derived word/quantity/concept. We live in a set of concepts. Those are your clouds there.Are they useful?Yes, for all practical purposes.Are they real?No..if you peel it down to the very root idea, almost everything is based upon assumptions. Even if I buy a dozen bananas, the assumption that goes into its pricing is that they are identical,which is not true. When we say “nuetron”, there is no such thing as “a nuetron” because all of them are differently located.The very foundation of all logical thinking is a “unit” or a “avergae case”.Please take out all your assumptions, and then let’s see if we can even utter one single word. Chinmaya is simply saying that to know the reality of things, one has to develope the ability of stepping out of ideas and into live life. How to do it? Just step into it. Just see for yourself if there’s anything to you more than concepts (and don’t spare anything that you take for granted, including gravity, life,death,personality..) and find out where the “I” is. Verbal breakdown is as effective as reading a prescription and hoping to get well.Enjoy!

  • Hi

    Wonderful to see some discussion happening on such fronts.

    I will add my two cents from my own understanding.

    Atman/Brahman – are the same. They refer to the substratum of all living/non living universe which we know and we don’t. It is clearly put in vedantic texts that it is impossible to define atman, but they have attempted to make it as clear as it can get, rest depends on one’s own experience. True, as spirituality is ones own personal journey. Nothing to prove to others. The road to bliss.

    When they say infinite atman – one reference of limitation of the words coming out here , which they tried to use it as creatively as they could.

    ‘ it is bigger than the biggest and it is smaller than the smallest’ – just to indicate that it is not a ‘thing’ to imagine or define. Seen from this light, the message being discussed might make a bit more sense. Ego/jeeva – are the same and they are basically result of ignorance of true nature of self – which is atman. Nonapprehension of true nature and misapprehension resulting from the non apprehension – projects the ego ‘over’ the atman, just like clouds ‘covers’ the sun.

    Hope this helps.

  • Ranganath R might not have got the gist of Vedanta philosophy but not all people of this world.
    Below is a view available in internet

    Hinduism is the only true religion of God. God is absolute reality. Universe, space, time are illusion.
    Refer: Advaita Vedanta – Wikipedia
    “According to Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is the highest Reality, [82][83][84] That which is unborn and unchanging,[83][85] and “not sublatable”,[82] and cannot be superseded by a still higher reality.[86][note 5][note 6] Other than Brahman, everything else, including the universe, material objects and individuals, are ever-changing and therefore maya. Brahman is Paramarthika Satyam, “Absolute Truth”,[101] and
    the true Self, pure consciousness … the only Reality (sat), since It is untinged by difference, the mark of ignorance, and since It is the one thing that is not sublatable”.[82]”
    Theory claims to offer the first ‘evidence’ our Universe is a hologram
    This is absolute monism or Advaita described in detail in his works by Adi Sankara.
    God is pure consciousness. There is only one self or “I” which is the only one consciousness and that is God. So says Sankara. The individual self is supreme self itself. Due to ignorance we attach ourselves with our body. This self/I consciousness is not part of brain or mind.
    A Neuroscientist Discovers Consciousness Beyond the Brain
    Soul/Self has no birth and death but in islam soul has no death but birth. God is beyond senses and imagination. Islamic god Allah speaks to prophets but does not appear before devotees.
    Refer Quran 2:253 Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah
    “253. Of those messengers, some of whom We have caused to excel others, and of whom there are some unto whom Allah spake, while some of them ”
    The sound has an origin and it is thus not beyond space time. Also sound is understood by ear a sense.
    Islamic god Allah stays in heaven (quran 67:16-17 and 66:11) .
    Al-Qur’an, Surah At-Tahrim
    “11. And Allah citeth an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said: My Lord! Build for me a home with thee in the Garden, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from evil-doing folk;”
    Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Mulk
    “16. Have ye taken security from Him Who is in the heaven that He will not cause the earth to swallow you when lo! it is convulsed ?”
    At one time Allah was alone, but after qayamat, hell, heaven , allah, souls, satan, time will exist forever. Just the universe, earth will get destroyed. Thus this god concept is not beyond space, time or senses.
    Some may ask whether it is ok to perform nitidhyasa or nirvikalpa meditation alone and not being religious. This is negeted by Lord Krishna and Adi Sankara. In his work Aparokshanubhti Sankara clearly mention the need to follow the 4 varna(caste) and rituals and rules. Only ritually disciplined will get mental purity necessary for gaining the knowledge of self. Similarly Lord Krishna in Gita says that one who identify his self with body need to worship God as saguna (Vishnu, Shiva or mother Goddess)
    Aparokshanubhuti Eng
    “Swa varnashrama dharmena, thapasa hari thoshanath,Sadhanam prabhaveth pumsam vairagyadhi chathushtayam,”
    “People practicing the prescribed Dharma of their class, Can propitiate through meditation ,that Lord Hari. And also attain their desired aim of reaching .The four aspects of renunciation, wisdom, loss of desires and salvation.”

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