At the end of 116 sarga bhagavAn vasishTha mentions a sAdhaka climbs seven layers of knowledge.
Lord rAma asked: O mahAtmA! knower of all philosophies! please explain me the seven bhUmis (layers) that lead to ultimate fulfilment.
bhagavAn vasishTha said: O rAmA! there are seven layers of ignorance as well as seven layers of knowledge. There are numerous shades of mixtures in between these seven layers as well.
Being in the svarUpa (own natural form) is liberation. Falling from svarUpa and becoming something else is ignorance. Broadly this is the difference between knowledge and ignorance.
“ahamtAmSE kshatE, sAntE bhEdE, niHspandatAm gatE; ajaDA yA prakacati tat svarUpam iti sthitam” – Having Ego reduced to zero, having removed duality and differentiation, not attained unconscious state, that which shines always is svarUpa.
Now listen about seven layers of ignorance. First one is seed-waking (bIja-jAgrat) which is like formatted memory with its capability to record. Second is waking (jAgrat) in which the I and mine and associated impressions arise. Third one is called mahA-jagrat in which the impressions becomes solidified. Fourth one is jagrat-svapna is just like the experience of king LavaNa. Next is svapna or dreaming state in which one realizes quickly that it is a dream. Sixth is the svapna-jAgrat in which a strong feeling of waking while dreaming. Final layer of ignorance is absence of all the above six, it is called deep sleep (sushupti) in which the consciousness is apparently absent.
Now listen to the seven layers of Atma jnAna:
1. subhEcca is the state of resolving “why I am I continuing to be a fool. Let me study scriptures. Let me meet learned wise men.”
2. vicAraNa is the stage where one puts the knowledge gained by studying the scriptures and meeting the wise learned men.
3. tanumAnasa is the stage where the practice of above two leads to natural withdrawal of senses from their material enjoyments.
4. satvApatti is the stage where complete disengagement of material pleasures & pains and staying in the Truth i.e., sattva. A yOgi in this state is also called as brahma-vid.
5. asamsakti is the stage where all the above four stages are mastered and senses can’t be turned back to material pleasures. In this stage a yOgi is called brahma-vid-vara.
6. padArthAbhAvani is the stage where the materials are not seen as real at all. There is no question of attachment in this stage. A yOgi at this stage is called brahma-vid-varIya.
7. turyaga – Having practices above six stages, one who has risen above all duality and differentiation is the one who has attained this stage. The yOgi is completely independent, auspicious, non-dual brahma-vid-varishTa also called as jeevan-mukta. One who has attained this stage and leaves the body is called vidEha mukta of turiyAtIta.
O rAmA, some yOgis obtain all seven gradually in one life span, some others reach second or third, some reach up to sixth, some great ones like sanaka reach the seventh directly, some attain fourth, some only a half, some quarter, some other up to three and half, or four and half, or six and half in one lifespan.
Those who try with vivEka to conquer these seven layers are the real emperors. One who has not got the vivEka, even if he has all the material world under his control, his achievements are equal to that of the blade of dried grass!
Even the creator brahma’s bliss is like a blade of grass in comparison to that of those who have attained jeevan-mukti.
Thus bhagavAn vasishTha concluded the discussion on the seven bhUmikas of Atma-jnana, end of 118 sarga of utpatti prakaraNa.
Sharing this on prabOdhini EkAdaSi of SrI jaya year, as lord mahA vishnu rises from his sleep on this day….