Let’s turn now to Sri Ramakrishna’s life and words. Sri Ramakrishna was an avatar, a descent of the divine into matter.
One of the purposes of his incarnation was to illustrate that the techniques for enlightenment given in the scriptural texts of all religions actually work and the descriptions of the states attained were true.
He reached enlightenment by several different paths, after first attaining the state by rigorously following Hindu practices.
I believe what he and his followers called “vijnana” is what Sri Ramana called “sahaja.” Sri Ramakrishna located vijnana as beyond jnana or Brahmajnana: “There is a stage beyond even Brahmajnana. After jnana comes vijnana.” (1) Sahaja lies next beyond Brahmajnana so these two terms point to the same event.
He defines it:
“What is vijnana? It is knowing God in a special way. The awareness and conviction that fire exists in wood is jnana, knowledge. But to cook rice on that fire, eat the rice, and get nourishment from it is vijnana. To know by one’s inner experience that God exists is jnana. But to talk to Him, to enjoy Him as Child, as Friend, as Master, as Beloved, is vijnana. The realization that God alone has become the universe and all living beings is vijnana.” (2)
So it’s a deeper knowing of God. And beyond Sahaja will be a still (deeper2) knowing of God (6th Dimension, 7th, etc.) and (deeper ∞) until we merge with God again.
Here’s his biographer, Swami Nikhilananda, describing PR’s entry into vijnana:
“In the Nirvikalpa Samadhi [that is, Brahmajnana] Sri Ramakrishna had realized that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory.
“By keeping his mind six months on the plane of the non-dual Brahman, he had attained to the state of the vijnani, the knower of truth in a special and very rich sense, who sees Brahman not only in himself and in the transcendental Absolute, but in everything of the world. In this state of vijnana, sometimes bereft of body-consciousness, he would regard himself as God’s devotee, servant, or child.” (3)
Six months. And this generation is not even being asked to meditate to attain the same high state – with Ascension.
“In this state of vijnana, sometimes bereft of body-consciousness” correlates to what Sri Ramana said: “absolute quiescence … which resembles inactive deep sleep.”
Sri Ramakrishna called this state “the last word [in] Sadhana.” (4) It’s the last word because we pass beyond the boundaries of the Third/Fourth Dimension and do not return. So we’re lost to this world, so to speak.
The master had to speak in figurative metaphors. His audience would probably have understood little if anything had he spoken plainly – that is, if there were Third-Dimensional words we could find to literally describe the state.
Here are some metaphors:
“What is vijnana? … To know that there is fire in wood is knowledge. But to make a fire with that wood, cook food with that fire, and become healthy and strong from that food is vijnana.” (5)
“Some have heard of milk, some have seen it, and some, again, have tasted it. You feel happy when you see milk; you are nourished and strengthened when you drink it. You will get peace of mind only when you have seen God [jnana]. You will enjoy bliss and gain strength only when you have talked to Him [vijnana]. (6)
“The vijnani … realizes that the steps [leading to the roof, by which he ascended to God] are made of the same materials as the roof [reached by Brahmajnana]: bricks, lime, and brick-dust. That which is realized intuitively as Brahman [in Brahmajnana], through the eliminating process of ‘Not this, not this,’ is then found to have become the universe and all its living beings [vijnana].” (7)
What the master means by “neti, neti” [not this, not this] is that we’ve realized God or Brahman by saying “This is not God, this is not God … no, not this, not this either.” This attainment of God by negating all that is not God is jnana or Brahmajnana.
Having realized God as not this, we now realize God as everything that is. Sri Ramakrishna notes the paradoxical shift:
“After reaching God one reaffirms what one formerly denied. … After the realization of God, He is seen in all beings.” (8)
“As long as a man associates himself with upadhis [appearances, limitations], so long he sees the manifold…; but on attaining Perfect Knowledge, he sees only one Consciousness everywhere.” (9)
Now God is all that exists and all that does not exist. This deeper state is vijnana.
We today would say that as long as a person sees only Third-Dimensional appearances, so long do they see the many and not the One, but when they see through 3D appearances they leave this dimension and see only the One in all.
Rarely do we get a picture of what things look like through the eyes of a vijnani and rarer still through the eyes of an avatar. Sri Ramakrishna describes what he sees:
“Do you know what I see? I see that God alone has become everything. Men and animals are only frameworks covered with skin, and it is He who is moving through their heads and limbs. I see that it is God Himself who has become the block, the executioner, and the victim for the sacrifice. … There sits Latu resting his head on the palm of his hand. To me it is the Lord who is seated in that posture.” (10)
So Sri Ramakrishna demonstrates that he sees only God in everything. He models what the vijnani – the ascended person – looks and acts like for us.
How could such a being succumb to corruption or conflict? If not impossible, it’d be extremely difficult. And of course one would not be able to remain in Fifth Dimensionality if one did succumb.
This state of enlightenment beyond jnana or Brahmajnana, which Sri Ramakrishna calls vijnana, I argue is our Ascension. All that he has written about it, I assert, can be imported into our discussions of Ascension, with appropriate changes.
I called core issues “vasanas” to hook us up to Vedantic discussions of it by Sri Ramana Maharshi. Let’s now hook the term “vijnana” up to our Ascension discussions. By doing so, we invite further widening and deepening of our understanding of the spiritual aspects of this culminating event.
(1) Paramahansa Ramakrishna (PR) in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 288. [Hereafter PR in GSR.]
(2) Ibid., 288.
(3) Nikhilananda in ibid., 38.
(4) PR in Swami Saradananda. Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master. Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Vol. 1, 1979, 98.
(5) PR in GSR, 911. This helps explain his advice not to hang out one’s shingle as a spiritual teacher after Brahmajnana, but to keep going and finish the job.
(6) PR in GSR, 368.
(7) PR in GSR, 103-4.
(8) PR in Swami Prabhavananda, First Meetings with Sri Ramakrishna. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1987, 116.
(9) PR in GSR, 319.
(10) Ibid., 70-1.