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Adhikari In Hinduism – The Competent Person

Adhikara means competency. A competent person is called an adhikari, one who would get the highest benefit from a text. Anyone can read any text if one wishes. But, every text is not meant for everyone. This is much more true of a scriptural text. ‘What are the prerequisite qualifications for undertaking the study of a text?’ The answer to this question is adhikara, competency. One who has those qualifications is an adhikari, competent person.

Types of Adhikaris

Hinduism takes into account of the fact that everyone is not capable for everything; there are degrees of competency among human beings. Just as all the computer engineers are not of the same category—there are superior, average, and ordinary types of engineers — so also among the spiritual aspirants exist divisions or categories based on their competency. For example, Advaita Vedanta classifies adhikaris into the following three categories.

Uttama adhikari, the superior aspirants, are those who are so prepared for the teachings of Advaita Vedanta that as soon as they hear the mahavakya, great Vedic dictum, ‘Tat tvam asi; you are that’, from the guru, they realise the truth immediately; they experience the unity of the individual self, Atman, and the cosmic self, Brahman.

Such aspirant of the highest category is quite rare.

These aspirants don’t require any spiritual practice and it is believed that they already have perfected those disciplines in their previous births.

Madhyama adhikari, the middling aspirants, have to practise sustained thinking on the mahavakya through a process called shravana-manana-nididhyasana, listening, reflecting, and meditating, as long as they don’t realise the truth. Through prolonged and uninterrupted practice of the above, they would directly experience the unity of Atman and Brahman. These type of aspirants are also not very common.

Adhama adhikari, the inferior aspirants, are those who don’t have adequate purity and concentration of the mind. Even if they follow the process of shravana-manana-nididhyasana, they have many doubts and fluctuations of the mind. For them, the recommendation is to practise the sadhana chatushtayah, the fourfold spiritual disciplines.

These disciplines are: viveka, discernment between the real and the unreal; vairagya, dispassion; the six practices of shama, dama, uparati, samadhana, titiksha, and shraddha; and mumukshutva, an intense desire for moksha. 

Although the disciplines are said to be fourfold, they are nine in number. These disciplines are necessary to achieve the required purity and one-pointedness of the mind. Without these, shravana-manana-nididhyasana won’t bear any result. This is true for most of the spiritual aspirants since most of them belong to this last category. That may sound unpleasant, but it is a fact we should reckon with.

In short, in the context of Advaita Vedanta, the superior aspirants have all the required qualifications for enlightenment and they only need to hear the truth from the guru; the middling aspirant has to practice the core spiritual practice of shravana-manana-nididhyasana, and; the inferior aspirant has to practice the four-fold spiritual disciplines along with the core spiritual practice of shravana-manana-nididhyasana.

Source – article titled - Three Types of Yogis by Swami Ishadhyanananda published in Prabuddha Bharata January 2019 issue.