Qualities of a realised soul

Every human being is born with certain character traits and tendencies. According to Indian philosophy, these tendencies are the impressions carried over from previous lives.

This accounts for both the desirable and undesirable qualities seen in men. Overcoming the negative and evil tendencies should be the primary goal of human life.

Adi Shankaracharya in his treatise Vivekachudamani explains this further. The undesirable tendencies produce a longing or desire for acquiring or enjoying material possessions beyond what is necessary. This longing results in action, in doing which, there is every possibility of man transgressing the path of righteousness or dharma. Great souls are those who have successfully annihilated the trio of tendency, longing and action. Shankara goes on to expatiate on the qualities of such realised souls.

In such noble souls, this is achieved by perfect understanding that the world is a manifestation of the divine, which pervades all sentient and insentient objects. When such universal consciousness is achieved, they are at perfect peace with the world. For, they have transcended the consciousness of name and form, that the Self or Brahman is the substratum of everything. They never swerve from this path. Even an inadvertent slip leads to great misery, like a child falling down the stairs or clasping a snake or trying to touch fire. One who fails to achieve this unity of vision can never rise to the level of spiritual awareness. He continues to struggle with worldly connections, encountering trouble after trouble. Shankara says only he who is intensely established in truth is liberated.  Shankara here makes an important statement that one who is addicted to falsehood ultimately perishes. For, indulging in untruths and deviousness leads to a chain of lies and misery with downfall, both in this world and in the hereafter.

Now, Shankara says that such great persons are those who have given up all thoughts of what is transient or unreal and identified themselves totally with the one reality, the supreme Brahman. By steady and ceaseless contemplation on the fact that ‘I am that’, they attain to a state of perfect peace and bliss. Shankara has a word of caution for ordinary mortals here. He says undue attachment to external objects only strengthens evil tendencies. The noble ones control the external attractions by subduing their senses. Thus, their mind becomes peaceful, which is conducive to beholding the inner divinity in themselves. When this is realised, they are freed from the bonds of earthly ties.

Therefore, they attain to a state of realisation. Their mind is a picture of composure, serenity and tranquility. For a tranquil mind, the intellect is firm, free from all evils and griefs. This is the highest state of consciousness. The pages of Indian philosophical and spiritual history are replete with the examples of such supremely realised souls, like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi and others.

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