(aka Vedanta Panchadasi)
By Sri Vidyaranya Swami
Translated by Swami Swahananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
IX X XI
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THE LAMP OF MEDITATION
1. One may perchance
obtain a thing by following a wrong line by mistake; so also even by worshipping
Brahman one may get release, the desired goal. So various ways of worship are
described in the Nrisimha-Uttara-Tapaniya Upanishad.
2. A man sees a gleam of light emitted by a gem and another sees a gleam of
light coming from a lamp; and both imagining that they are gems run to get them.
Though (in both the cases) the notions are wrong, the results are different.
3. There is a lamp inside the house, its light is visible from outside. Similarly
elsewhere the light of a gem is seen (from outside).
4. On seeing the two gleams at a distance, both (the men) took them for gems
and ran after them. Their notions are equally wrong, in that they took the gleams
5. The man who ran for the gleam of the lamp did not find the gem, but the man
who ran for the gleam of the gem got it.
6. Mistaking the gleam of a lamp for a gem is called a Visamvadi Bhrama, 'misleading
error' (or an error that does not lead to the goal). Mistaking the gleam of
a gem for a gem is called a 'leading' or 'informative' error, though both are
errors (or wrong observations).
7. On seeing a mist and mistaking it for smoke, if a man argues the existence
of fire there and goes for getting charcoal and accidentally finds it, his mistake
is called a 'leading' error, a chance coincidence.
8. Sprinkling on himself the water of the River Godavari thinking it to be that
of the River Ganges, if a man is actually purified this is 'leading' error (Samvadi
9. A man suffering from a high fever repeats 'Narayana' in delirium and dies.
He goes to heaven. This is again a 'leading' error.
10. In direct perception, in inference and in the application of scriptural
authority, there are innumerable instances of such leading errors or chance
11. Otherwise, how could images of clay, wood and stone be worshipped as deities
or how could a woman be worshipped as fire ?
12. From the knowledge and (or) adoption of a wrong means, sometimes, by accident,
as in the sitting of a crow on the branch of a palm tree and in the instantaneous
fall of a fruit thereof, a desired result is obtained. This knowledge and (or)
adoption of a wrong means is called a Samvadi Bhrama or a 'leading' error, or
error leading to a right knowledge.
13. The 'leading' error though a wrong notion is potent enough to give the correct
result. So also the meditation or worship of Brahman leads to liberation.
14. After indirectly knowing the one indivisible homogeneous Brahman from the
books on Vedanta, one should meditate on or think repeatedly 'I am Brahman'.
15. Without realising Brahman to be one's own Self, the general knowledge of
Him derived through the study of the scriptures, viz., 'Brahman is', is here
called indirect knowledge, just as our knowledge of the forms of Vishnu etc.,
16. One may have knowledge of Vishnu from scriptures as having four arms etc.,
but if one does not have a vision of Him, he is said to have only indirect knowledge,
inasmuch as he has not seen Him with his eyes.
17. This knowledge because of its defect of indirectness is not false, for the
true form of Vishnu has been revealed by the scriptures which are authoritative.
18. From the scripture a man may have a conception of Brahman as existence,
consciousness and bliss but he cannot have a direct knowledge of Brahman unless
Brahman is cognised as the inner witness in his own personality.
19. As the knowledge of Sat-Chit-Ananda has been acquired in the scriptural
method, it, though an indirect knowledge, is not an illusory one.
20. Though Brahman has been described as being one's own Self in the scriptures
and the great Saying, still, one cannot understand It without the practice of
21. As long as the delusion that the body is the Self, is strong in a man of
dull intellect, he is not able at once to know Brahman as the Self.
22. As the perception of duality is not opposed to an indirect knowledge of
non-duality, a man of faith, expert in the scriptures, can easily have the indirect
knowledge of Brahman.
23. The perception of a stone image is not opposed to an indirect knowledge
of the deity whom the image represents. Which devotee contradicts the idea of
Vishnu in the image ?
24. The disbelief of those who have no faith need not be considered, for the
believing alone are authorised to perform the Vedic actions.
25. An indirect knowledge of Brahman can arise even through a single instruction
by a competent teacher. It is like the knowledge of the form of Vishnu which
does not depend on intellectual enquiry.
26. As there may be doubts about them, ritualistic works and methods of worship
have been discussed (in the scriptures). Who otherwise could have synthesised
the directions about them, scattered as they are over many branches of the Vedas
27. Such rituals and methods of worship have been collected and co-ordinated
in the Kalpa-Sutras. With their help man, who has faith, may practise them without
28. The methods of worship are described in other works by the seers. Those
who are dull of ratiocination go to a teacher and learn the methods from him.
29. To determine the correct meaning of the Vedic texts let the learned resort
to enquiry, but practical worship can be performed (with benefit) according
to the teachings of a competent teacher.
30. The direct realisation of Brahman, however, is never possible only from
the instructions of a competent teacher without the practice of inquiry.
31. Want of faith alone obstructs the indirect knowledge; want of enquiry is
however the obstacle to the direct knowledge.
32. If even by enquiry one does not get the direct knowledge of Brahman as the
Self, one should repeatedly practise enquiry, for enquiry, it is prescribed,
should continue until direct knowledge dawns.
33. If a person does not realise the Self even after practising till death,
he will surely realise it in a future life when all the obstacles will have
34. Knowledge will arise either in this birth or the next, says the author of
the Brahma Sutras. The Shruti also says that there are many who listen to the
teachings on non-duality and yet do not realise in this life.
35. By virtue of the practice of spiritual enquiry in a previous birth, Vamadeva
had realisation even while in his mother's womb. Such results are also seen
in the case of studies.
36. In spite of reading many times a boy may not be able to memorise something,
but sometimes, next morning, without any further study, he remembers all that
he has read.
37. As the seed in the field or in the womb matures in time, so in the course
of time the practice of self-enquiry gradually ripens and bears fruit.
38. In spite of repeated enquiry a man does not realise the truth because of
three kinds of impediments. This has been clearly pointed out in his Vartika
by Acharya Sureshvara.
39. If you ask why the realisation (which did not arise before) comes now, we
shall reply that knowledge comes only with the total removal of impediments
which may be past, present or future.
40. Therefore only by studying the Veda and its meaning a man is not released.
This has been shown in the example of hidden gold.
41. There is the popular song saying that a monk could not realise the truth,
the impediment being his past attachment to his queen (or a she-buffalo).
42. His teacher instructed him of Brahman knowing his attachment to her (by
telling him that Brahman was her substratum). When the impediment was removed,
the monk realised the truth properly.
43. The impediments of the present are (i) binding attachment to the objects
of the senses, (ii) dullness of the intellect, (iii) indulgence in improper
and illogical arguments and (iv) the deep conviction that the Self is an agent
and an enjoyer.
44. Through the practice of inner control and other qualifications and through
hearing the truth and so forth, suitable for counteracting the impediments,
the latter slowly perish and one realises his Self as Brahman.
45. The future impediment has been well illustrated in the case of Vamadeva.
He overcame it in one birth and Bharata in three births.
46. In the Gita, it has been told that a Yogi who has not attained illumination
in this life may be freed from the impediment after many births. Yet his practice
of enquiry is never fruitless.
47. Because of his practice of enquiry such a Yogi enters into the heaven of
the meritorious and then if he is not freed from desires, he is born again in
a pious and prosperous family.
48. Or, if he has no worldly desires, he is born in a family of Yogis who have
pure intellect due to their practice of enquiry into the nature of Brahman,
for such a birth is hard to obtain.
49. He regains the Yogic intellect acquired in his previous birth and so strives
more vigorously; this birth is indeed hard to achieve.
50. He is borne on by the momentum of his Yogic practices in the previous birth
even against his inclination. Thus after many births he achieves perfection
and as a result is liberated.
51. A man who has a strong desire for Brahmaloka, but suppresses it and practises
enquiry about the Self, will not have realisation.
52. As the scriptures say, the monk, who has well ascertained the meaning of
Vedanta, goes to the realm of Brahma and is released at the end of the four
Yugas along with Brahma.
53. In some cases the enquiry itself is impeded because of the result of their
evil deeds as the Shruti says: 'Even to hear about Him it is not available to
54. If a man cannot practise enquiry, either due to extreme dullness of intellect
or for want of other favourable circumstances, let him always keep the mind
55. As it is possible to continue the thought-current regarding Brahman with
attributes, meditation on the attributeless Brahman also is not impossible.
56. (Doubt): Brahman is beyond speech and mind and so cannot be meditated upon.
(Reply): Then there can be no knowledge of Brahman too.
57. (Doubt): Brahman is known as beyond speech and mind. (Reply): Then why cannot
Brahman be meditated upon as beyond speech and mind ?
58. (Doubt): If Brahman can be meditated upon He becomes invested with attributes.
(Reply): That happens if He is taken as knowable. (Doubt): Brahman is knowable
by Lakshana, indirect indication. (Reply): Then meditate upon Brahman that way,
i.e., by Lakshana.
59. (Doubt): The Shruti saying, 'Know that alone to be Brahman which is beyond
the range of speech and mind and not that which the people worship', prohibits
meditation on Brahman.
60. (Reply): Equally Brahman cannot be an object of knowledge, for the Shruti
says: 'Brahman is other than that which can be known'. (Doubt): The Shruti also
says that Brahman can be known. (Reply): So also it says that He can be meditated
upon. So meditate on Him basing upon those Vedic texts.
61. (Doubt): But Brahman as an object of knowledge is unreal. (Reply): Why not
as an object of meditation too ? (Doubt): Covering and apprehending by Vrittis
is knowledge. (Reply): Similarly, doing that is meditation.
62. (Doubt): Why are you so devoted to meditation on the attributeless Brahman
? (Reply): Why are you so opposed to it ? Say that. As there are many Shruti
texts prescribing meditation on the attributeless Brahman, it is not proper
to say that there is no authority for it.
63. Meditation on the attributeless Brahman has been prescribed in the Nrisimha-Uttara-Tapaniya,
Prasna (Saibya's fifth question), Katha, Mandukya and other Upanishads.
64. This method of meditation of the attributeless Brahman has been in the Panchikarana
Vartika by Sureshvara. (Doubt): This meditation is the means of indirect knowledge
of Brahman (but not of liberation). (Reply): We don't say that it is not so.
65. (Doubt): But most of the people do not practise this type of meditation.
(Reply): Let them not do. How can the meditation be blamed for the short-comings
of the meditator ?
66. People of spiritually dull intellect repeat sacred formulas to acquire power
over others, finding it more immediately fruitful than meditation on Brahman
with attributes. There are people still more dull-witted who concentrate only
67. Let the dull-witted do what they like ! Here we speak of meditation on the
Absolute. Since it is of one Vidya or Upasana, all the qualifications of Brahman
described in the various branches of the Veda must be gathered for meditation.
68. The positive qualities of bliss etc., are all to be co-ordinated into meditation
on Brahman. This has been told by Vyasa in the 'Anandadaya..' Sutra.
69. Similarly Vyasa speaks of all the negative indications of Brahman such as
'not gross' in the 'Aksharadhiyam' Sutra.
70. (Doubt): Combining and thinking of these indications do not fit in with
meditation on the attributeless Brahman. (Reply): Then your doubt is directed
against Vyasa himself and not against me alone.
71. (Doubt): As (Vyasa) has not asked for the inclusion of the forms such as
of the sun with golden beard etc., meditation on the attributeless is not contradicted.
(Reply): Be satisfied with that; we also do not ask for that.
72. (Doubt): Qualities are only indirect indications; they cannot enter into
the true nature of Brahman. (Reply): Let them be so. Meditate on Brahman thus
73. The Self is here indirectly indicated by positive qualities like 'bliss'
etc., and by negative qualities like 'not gross' etc. One should meditate on
the indivisible, homogeneous Self as 'That I am'.
74. (Doubt): What is the difference between knowledge and meditation ? (Reply):
Listen; knowledge depends on the object, whereas meditation depends on the will
of the person meditating.
75. By the practice of enquiry, the knowledge of Brahman arises; then it cannot
be prevented whether one likes it or not. Such knowledge, by the mere fact of
its arising, destroys all ideas of the reality of the world.
76. On acquiring knowledge the aspirant experiences unbroken satisfaction and
a feeling of having accomplished all that was to be accomplished. He becomes
liberated in life and awaits the wearing-out of his fructifying Karma.
77. On the other hand, a believing man, putting his faith in the teachings of
his teacher and without practising enquiry, should meditate on the object prescribed
without being distracted by other thoughts.
78. He should continue the practice of meditation until he realises himself
to be identical with his object of meditation and then continue this thought
79. A certain Brahmachari used to go for alms keeping in his mind his identity
with the vital air within him.
80. Meditation depends on the will of a man whether he is to do or not to do
or to do it in a different way. One should therefore always continue the thought
81. A student, diligent in reciting the Vedas, reads or recites them even in
his dreams through the force of habit. Similarly, one who practises meditation,
continues it even in his dreams.
82. Giving up contrary thoughts, if a man ceaselessly meditates, he meditates
even in his dreams because of the deep impression.
83. There is no doubt that while experiencing the results of his fructifying
Karma a man, because of his strong impression, is able to meditate without intermission,
just as a man attached to worldly objects always thinks of them.
84. A woman devoted to a paramour, though engaged in household duties, will
all the time be dwelling in mind on the pleasures with him.
85. While enjoying in mind the pleasure of the company of her lover, her household
duties though not much disturbed, are managed indifferently.
86. The woman with attachment to a paramour cannot fully do the work as a woman
attached to her domestic duties does, with enthusiasm.
87. Similarly, a man who practises meditation one-pointedly, indifferently performs
his worldly affairs; but a man who has realised the truth fulfils his worldly
duties well, as they do not come in conflict with his knowledge.
88. This world is illusory, Maya and the Self is by nature pure consciousness.
How can such knowledge be opposed to his worldly activities ?
89. To perform activities, the world need not be thought real nor Self as insentient
matter. To do so the right means only are necessary.
90. These means are the mind, the speech, body and external objects. They do
not disappear on enlightenment. So why can't he engage himself in worldly affairs
91. If he controls and concentrates his mind, he is a meditator and not a knower
of truth. To know a pot the mind need not be controlled.
92. (Doubt): A pot once known by a modification of intellect, Vritti, remains
so always. (Reply): Is not the self-illumined Self also ever manifest ?
93. (Doubt): Does the self-luminous property of the Self give you the knowledge
of Brahman ? The Vritti with Brahman as the object is the cognition of truth,
but the Vritti perishes in a moment. (Reply): This objection also applies to
the cognition of a pot.
94. (Doubt): Once an intellectual conviction of the pot's existence is established,
the cognition (Vritti) of the pot perishes. Afterwards it can be recognised
at the will of the cogniser. (Reply): The same applies to the cognition of the
95. Once the nature of the Self has been conclusively determined, the knower
can speak of it, think of it or meditate on it at will.
96. (Doubt): The knower too, like a meditator, forgets worldly affairs in his
contemplation. (Reply): Let him forget. This forgetfulness is due to his meditation
and not because of his knowledge of the Self.
97. Meditation is left to his will, for his release has been achieved through
knowledge. From knowledge alone comes release. This the scriptures announce
98. (Doubt): If a knower does not meditate, he would be drawn to external affairs.
(Reply): Let him happily engage himself in them. What is the objection for a
knower to be so engaged ?
99. (Doubt): This sort of reasoning is wrong, for there the scriptures will
be violated. (Reply): If so, what is right reasoning please ? (Doubt): Right
reasoning is to follow the injunctions and prohibitions of the scriptures. (Reply):
But they do not apply to the enlightened.
100. All these injunctions and prohibitions are meant for those who believe
themselves to belong to a certain caste or station and stage of life.
101. The knower is convinced that caste, station etc., are creations of Maya
and that they refer to the body and not to the Self whose nature is pure consciousness.
102. The clear-sighted knower from whose heart all attachment has vanished is
a liberated soul whether he performs or not concentration or action.
103. He whose mind is free from all desires or former impressions has nothing
to gain from either action or inaction, meditation (Samadhi) or repetitions
of holy formulas.
104. The Self is associationless and everything other than the Self is a display
of the magic of Maya. When a mind has such a firm conviction, wherefrom will
any desire or impression come in it ?
105. Thus when for an illumined sage there is no injunction on prohibition,
where is his violating them ? Only for him can violation be possible who is
bound by them.
106. As a child is not subject to any injunctions and prohibitions, he cannot
be charged with their violation. In their absence, in the case of a man of realisation
too, how can there be any violation ?
107. (Doubt): But a boy does not know anything. (Reply): A knower of truth knows
everything. The law applies to one who knows a little, not to the other two.
108. (Doubt): He is a knower of truth who can bless or curse with effect. (Reply):
Not that, for these powers result from the practice of austerities.
109. (Doubt): Vyasa and others had these powers. (Reply): But these were produced
by some austerities. Austerities meant for knowledge are different from them.
110. Those who practise both the types of austerities possess both powers and
knowledge. So each type of practice will produce the result appropriate to it.
111. (Doubt): Ascetics and ritualists, despise the saintly monk who has neither
such powers nor follow the injunctions. (Reply): Their austerities and rituals
are also despised by the votaries of worldly pleasures.
112. (Doubt): Monks too find a pleasure in the acquisition of alms, clothes
and shelter. (Reply): Then what wonderful renunciation they must have being
unable to move as it were with their dispassion !
113. (Doubt): It does not matter if the ritualists observing the scriptural
rules are abused by the ignorant. (Reply): It also does not matter if a man
of realisation is abused by the ritualists who identify themselves with the
body and so observe the rules.
114. Therefore as knowledge of truth does not affect the means, such as the
mind and so forth, a man of realisation is able to do worldly activities such
as ruling a country.
115. (Doubt): He may not have any desire for worldly affairs since he is convinced
of the unreality of the empirical world. (Reply): Let it be; let him be engaged
in meditation or work according to his fructifying Karma.
116. On the other hand, a meditator should always engage himself in meditation,
for through meditation his feeling of identity with Brahman arises, as a devotee
has it by meditating on Vishnu.
117. The feeling of identity, which is the effect of meditation, ceases when
the practice is given up; but the true Brahmanhood does not vanish even in the
absence of knowledge.
118. The eternal Brahmanhood is revealed by knowledge and not created by it,
for even in the absence of the revealer the real entity does not cease to exist.
119. (Doubt): But the Brahmanhood of a meditator also is real. (Reply): True,
is not the Brahmanhood of the ignorant and the lower creatures also real ?
120. Since nescience is common, they do not realise the purpose of their life.
But just as begging is better than starving, so also it is better to practise
devotion and meditation than to engage in other pursuits.
121. It is better to perform the works ordained in the scriptures than be engrossed
in worldly affairs. Better than this is to worship a personal deity and meditation
on the attributeless Brahman is still better.
122. That which is nearer to the realisation of Brahman is superior; and meditation
on the Absolute gradually becomes like direct realisation of Brahman.
123. A 'leading' error leads to the desired goal, when it becomes knowledge.
Similarly meditation on Brahman when ripened, leads to release and becomes real
124. (Doubt): A man working prompted by a 'leading' error gets correct knowledge
not by the leading error but by another evidence. (Reply): The meditation on
the Absolute may also be taken as the cause of other evidence (Nididhyasana
leading to direct realisation).
125. (Doubt): Meditation on the form of a deity and repetition of a sacred formula
also lead to the goal. (Reply): Let it be so; but the speciality of meditation
on the Absolute is that it is nearest to the goal of Self-realisation.
126. When meditation on the attributeless Brahman is mature it leads to Samadhi.
This state of intense concentration at case leads on to the Nirodha state in
which the distinction between subject and object is eliminated.
127. When such complete cessation of mental activity is achieved, only the associationless
entity (Atman) remains in his heart. By ceaseless meditation on It based on
the great Sayings, arises the knowledge 'I am Brahman'.
128. There is then a perfect realisation of Brahman as the immutable, associationless,
eternal, self-revealed, secondless whole, as indicated in the scriptures.
129. The Amritabindu and other Upanishads recommend Yoga for the same object.
It is clear therefore that meditation on the attributeless Brahman is superior
to other types of worship.
130. Those who give up meditation on the attributeless Brahman and undertake
pilgrimages, recitations of the holy formulas and other methods, may be compared
to 'those who drop the sweets and lick the hand'.
131. (Doubt): This applies also to those who meditate on the attributeless Brahman
giving up enquiry into Its nature. (Reply): True, therefore only those who are
not able to practise enquiry have been asked to meditate on the attributeless
132. Those who are very fickle-minded and agitated do not have the knowledge
of Brahman by the practice of enquiry. Therefore control of the mind is the
chief means for them. By it their mind becomes free from distractions.
133. For those whose intellects are no longer distracted nor restless but are
merely covered by a veil of ignorance, the analytical system called Sankhya
(intellectual enquiry) is prescribed. It will quickly lead them to spiritual
134. 'The state of spiritual balance is obtainable by both the Sankhyas (those
who follow the path of enquiry) and the Yogis (those who practise meditation).
He really knows the meaning of the scriptures who knows that the paths of enquiry
and meditation are the same'.
135. The Shruti too declares that with both enquiry and meditation people know
the Highest; but whatever in the books of Sankhya and Yoga are against the Shruti
are to be rejected.
136. If one fails to perfect the practice of meditation in this life, one does
so either at the time of death or in the region of Brahma. Then, obtaining direct
knowledge of the reality, one is liberated.
137. The Gita says that a man attains that which he thinks of at the time of
death. Wherever his mind is fixed, there he goes, says the Shruti too.
138. So the future life of a man is determined by the nature of his thoughts
at the time of death. Then as a devotee of the Personal God is absorbed in Him,
so a meditator on the attributeless Brahman is absorbed in It and obtains Liberation.
139. Brahman is called 'eternal' and 'attributeless' but in fact It is of the
nature of liberation itself, just as 'leading' error is an error in name only,
for it leads to the desired object.
140. As by meditation on the Personal God knowledge of the nature of Ishvara
arises, so by meditation on the attributeless Brahman, knowledge of Its nature
arises and destroys the ignorance which is the root of rebirth.
141. A meditator becomes Brahman who is 'unattached, desireless, free from body
and organs and fearless'. Thus the Tapaniya Upanishad speaks of liberation as
the result of meditation on the attributeless Brahman.
142. By the strength of meditation on the attributeless Brahman knowledge arises.
So the scriptural verse, 'Verily there is no other path to liberation (except
knowledge)' does not conflict with this.
143. So the Tapaniya Upanishad points out that liberation comes from desireless
meditation. The Prasna Upanishad also says that by meditation with desire one
enters into the region of Brahma.
144. The Prasna Upanishad says that he who meditates with desires on the three-lettered
Aum, is taken to the region of Brahma. There he comes to know the attributeless
Brahman who is beyond Hiranyagarbha, the sum total of souls and becomes free.
145. The Brahma Sutras in the Apratikadhikarana say that he who desires the
region of Brahma and meditates with desires on the attributeless Brahman attains
146. Such a worshipper, by virtue of his meditation on the attributeless Brahman,
enters the world of Brahma and there obtains direct knowledge of Brahman. He
is not born again, he gets ultimate release at the end of the four Yugas.
147. In the Vedas meditation on the holy syllable Aum in most places means meditation
on the attributeless Brahman, though in some places it means meditation on Brahman
148. Pippalada being asked by his pupil Satyakama says that Aum means Brahman
both with and without attributes.
149. Yama too, questioned by his pupil Nachiketas, replied that he who meditates
on Aum knowing it as the attributeless Brahman obtains the fulfilment of his
150. He who meditates properly on the attributeless Brahman gets direct knowledge
of Brahman either in this life or at the time of death or in the world of Brahma.
151. The Atma Gita also clearly says that those who cannot practise discrimination
should always meditate on the Self.
152. (The Self as if says): 'Even if direct knowledge of Me does not seem to
be possible, a man should still meditate on the Self. In the course of time,
he doubtlessly realises the Self and is freed'.
153. 'To reach treasures deeply hidden in the earth, there is nothing for it
but to dig. So to have direct knowledge of Me, the Self, there is no other means
than meditation on one's Self'.
154. 'A man should remove the stones of body consciousness from the field of
the mind and then by repeatedly digging with the pick-axe, the intellect, he
can get the hidden treasure of the Self.'
155. Even if there is no realisation, think 'I am Brahman'. Through meditation
a man achieves even other things (like the Deities), why not Brahman who is
156. If a man, who is convinced by his experience that meditation, practised
day by day, destroys the idea that the not-Self is the Self, nevertheless becomes
idle and neglects meditation, what difference, tell us, is there between him
and a brute ?
157. Destroying his idea that the body is the Self, through meditation a man
sees the secondless Self, becomes immortal and realises Brahman in this body
158. The meditator who studies this Chapter called the 'Lamp of Meditation',
is freed from all his doubts and meditates constantly on Brahman.