The four credentials are

1. Dispassion (Vairagya),

2. Discrimination (Viveka),

3. Six treasures of discipline like the control of the mind (shad sampatti) and

4. Yearning for liberation from the bondage of ignorance (mumuskhuta).

These basic qualifications are called Sadhana Chatushtaya – the Quartet of Practice. He is considered good for study of the subject of Vedanta who has these qualifications :

1. Vairagya :

Vairagya is the complete and constant detachment to all sense objects of the world or of heaven. A mind soaked in vairagya does not turn back towards sense objects even unconsciously. Even if it comes across sense objects accidentally it makes a quick retreat from them as one detests the droppings of a crow. Vairagya is such an attitude of mind.

2. Viveka :

Viveka or discrimination is the capacity to distinguish between nitya and anitya. Only Atman (the seer) is permanent (nitya). All others (the seen) are impermanent (anitya).This process of discrimination is called ” Neti, Neti ” (Not that, not that).

The Awareness (Atman) is the perceiver, a witness or seer (Drig) and the objects of the world including the sense organs, the mind and the intellect (Buddhi) are the perceived or seen (Drisyam). The seen is finite and transient while the seer is infinite, changeless and eternal. Shankara says that the one who has firm conviction based on experience born out of contemplation and meditation that Atman, the Self is eternal and all the rest is impermanent is said to have Viveka (discrimination).

Drig And Drisyam :

Drig (Knower) ————— Drisya (Known object)

1 The seer ——————-> Pot (i.e., the seen object)

2 The eye organ ————-> Body, Pot, etc.

3 The sense of sight ———->The eye organ

4 The mind ———————> The sense of sight

5 The individual soul ————> The mind

6 Consciousness (the Self) —–> The individual soul

It is seen that one is knower in relation to another; yet, since that one is object in relation to another, none of those categories is, in reality, the knower. Although we are said to be the ‘knower’ because we know all, and not the ‘known’ because we are not known by anything else, we are said to be the ‘knower’ only in relation to the known objects. In truth, however, what is called the ‘known’ is not apart from us. And so we are the Reality that transcends those two (the knower and the known). All the others fall within the knower-known categories.

3. Shad Sampatti :

a) Sama and b) Dama

Previous impressions that are lying dormant in the mind as well as contact of the mind with the external objects give rise to desires. Negating desires that always crop up in our minds is Sama while preventing the sense stimuli to enter our system is Dama. Sama is the control of desire that disturb the mind internally while Dama is the restraining of the external objects from casting their sway on the mind through sense organs.

c) Uparati and d) Titiksha

The condition of the mind where it does not run after sense objects because of its withdrawal from these fields is Uparati. Uparati differs from Sama and Dama in that while practicing Sama and Dama there is an effort to restrain the mind’s outgoing propensities, in Uparati the equipoise of the mind becomes spontaneous and no further effort is needed for expanding it. The capacity to endure silently the vicissitudes of life is Titiksha.

e) Sraddha and f) Samadhana

To have full and implicit faith and devotion in the Vedas and the words of the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Sraddha, The single pointed concentration of the mind constantly on the Truth, Sat, i.e. Brahman is regarded as Samadhana.

4. Mumukshuta

Firm conviction and burning desire (a very high motivation) to know about when and how one can get rid of the bonds of this world (birth and death or liberation) is Mumukshuta.

Ritualistic sacrifices and similar acts like Japa, Tapa, Dhyana, Karma and Upasana performed without motive are the secondary means. But the four (qualifications) and the three (steps)and (the one) enquiry into the meaning of ‘That’ and ‘Thou’ — these eight make up the chief means.

The three steps are hearing (Sravana), reflection (Manana) and uninterrupted contemplation (Nididhyasana).

The four Sadhanas enumerated above are nothing but a course of personal discipline to attain to that state of mind which will be capable of absorbing the teachings of a Guru and enquire into the nature of the Reality. They are illustrated as under.

Endowed with the above qualifications and after acquiring tranquility of mind through Sadhana, a person should strive hard to maintain the same by constantly reflecting on the impermanent nature of the world and concentrate on the highest Truth till he attains enlightenment i.e. liberation from the bondage of ignorance.

Shankara now indicates as to how the ignorance can be removed. He says that Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara, just as an object cannot be seen by any other means than a light.

To get at knowledge we have to remove Avidya. But so long as we keep ourselves busy with karma, Upasana etc. we remain under their wave. Only when we investigate into the real nature of this Avidya, it gradually pulls out and ultimately disappears. Then alone Knowledge of the Reality shines by itself.

The enquiry into the nature of Truth starts by considering the following questions :

1. Who am I ?
2. How is this world created ?
3. Who is its creator ?
4. Of what material this world is made ?

The four questions mentioned above set the tone and direction in which the enquiry and the thinking process should proceed for finding out the answers to the vexed issues.

Fifteen Steps to Attain Knowledge :

Acharya Shankara expounds the fifteen steps with the help of which on should practice profound meditation at all times on Brahman for the attainment of the desired goal. These are enumerated below.

1. Control of the senses (yama)
2. Control of the mind (niyama)
3. Renunciation (tyaga)
4. Silence (mouna)
5. Space (desa)
6. Time (kala)
7. Posture (asana)
8. Restraining the root (mulabandha)
9. Holding the body steady (deha-samya)
10. Steadiness of gaze (drk sthiti)
11. Control of prana (prana-samyamana)
12. Withdrawal of the mind (pratyahara)
13. Continuous reflection (dharana)
14. Contemplation on the Self (dhyanam) and
15. Total absorption (Nirvikalpa samadhi)