Today we are in an era where everyone is busy with their own lives and goals. These goals are different from person to person. But in this search of diverse worldly goals we forget the ultimate goal of life which is eternal bliss. It is this goal that we are all seeking knowingly or unknowingly. If we are unknowingly seeking this goal then we will not be able to progress towards the goal and thereby will not achieve the goal.
Once we know that eternal bliss is the goal that we are seeking then we should start seeking this goal with all our might. Unless we start seeking the goal with all might, focus and attention we will not be able to attain the goal. Only when we stop seeking worldly pleasures remembering that they will cause only sorrow, can we start seeking eternal bliss in the non-dual reality of Brahman pervading the entire world.
Eternal bliss as Brahman cannot be attained unless we have proper guidance and this guidance can be given only by the Guru. The Guru, put in Ramana Maharshi’s words, is Brahman in a human form appearing in front of the seeker to fulfill the seeker’s strong desire for realization. Even if we aren’t able to find a physical guru, the various gurus in the past are there in the form of their thoughts, words, works etc. to guide us in the right direction towards the goal of moksha.
In this benign month of Guru Poornima, may we all be guided in the right direction towards the goal of moksha so that we will attain this goal and ever rejoice in bliss in this very birth itself.
AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA
Vedanta Darshanam 1
Guru Mahima 3
Mukhya Vishayam 7
Sankshiptha Vedanta 13
Upanishad Prachaaram 21
Raga Varsha 25
Vedanta Pariksha 38
Mata Parichayam 42
Anukramaanika Nirdesham 44
Let us continue with the slokas of Guru Gita where a seeker offers prostrations to the Guru.
Yasya jnaanam idam vishwam na drishyam bhinnabhedhathah
Sadaikaruparupaaya tasmai sreegurave namah By whose knowledge (the knowledge imparted by whom), this seen world is known as not dual objects (objects different from one another), unto that Guru who is of the nature of pure Existence my prostrations.
Knowledge of non-duality
Non-duality or advaita has often been misconceived or misunderstood or misinterpreted when it comes to implementation or with respect to the external world. The easy excuse for this is to quote the sloka of “bhaavaadvaitam sadaa kuryaat, karmaadvaitam na karhichit” or “always maintain advaita in the mind and never maintain advaita in action” – of course this sloka also has been misunderstood and twisted to suit to one’s own benefit. The sloka means that non-duality can only be maintained at the mental plane and not at the action or external plane. How can we ever maintain non-duality in action when action itself is defined or characterized by duality (duality of doer, means of doing and the fruit to be achieved)? Thus it is said that never try to implement advaita in the external world or in actions. But this is just one part of the statement and just taking this part alone would only lead to wrong results. The first part of “maintain advaita in the mind” is as important as the second part or we can say is more important than the second part – when non-duality is maintained in the mind then there is nothing but non-duality alone (both externally and internally). Actions are interpreted by the mind – when the mind takes in duality and converts it into non-duality then we maintain non-duality in the mind. In such a case, there is only non-duality in the mind. If there is only non-duality maintained at the mental plane then it is as good as saying that there is only non-duality externally as well – as whatever is seen will become converted into non-duality (it is the end-result that really matters). Irrespective of how much voltage comes to our house, it only matters as to how much voltage we are able to use through the plug points (where the total voltage gets converted) – though electricity has infinite potential, it really matters as to how much we are able to get in the end. Irrespective of how much we cook, it only matters as to how much we are able to eat (food cooked but not eaten is a waste and will serve no purpose other than probably remorse over wasting food and time in cooking the wasted food).
Thus if a seeker is able to maintain non-duality in the mind then automatically there is only non-duality everywhere. This is true implementation of Advaita or Vedanta itself. Many seekers and others aren’t able to understand this subtle concept and thus become either confused with concepts or misinterpret the concepts to one’s own benefit. Both these people will not get the end result of eternal bliss which is the ultimate goal seeking which we are performing all actions.
This subtle concept though can be found in all the scriptures will only be understood properly when gained from a person who is not just intellectually understanding it but is experiencing it intuitively in one’s own life. Even though we may have seen the Sahara desert from TV, photos or internet still only the words of a person who has been to Sahara can vanquish all doubts from a questioner’s mind. A person who has gained some intellectual insight into the scriptures may be able to answer few questions but will not be able to dispel doubts once and for all from a questioner’s mind – hence such people aren’t suited to be Gurus, they will bring their own downfall as well as the downfall of others (their own downfall by boosting the Ego and the downfall of others by misguiding them).
Here Guru Gita says that the Guru is one who gives us knowledge of non-duality, not just in theory but in practice too. The term of “practical Vedanta” has caught up a lot since the times of Swami Vivekananda. But many misunderstand this term – practical Vedanta doesn’t mean that there aren’t concepts or theories in it. Theories or concepts are inevitable in order to make Vedanta practical (without theory, practical cannot happen). It is from a Guru that a shishya gains both theoretical and practical knowledge. Theoretical knowledge is that Brahman alone exists as the substratum of the illusory world that we currently perceive. Practical knowledge is the intuitive experience in the mind that the world perceived is not filled with dual objects but is pervaded by non-dual reality of Brahman. Though externally one may see the world and see duality in the mind, when it passes through the filter of the mind (which is guided and graced by the intellect and its knowledge) it becomes non-dual and thus the world is considered as non-dual Brahman with names and forms.
Names and forms will be considered temporary and accepted. But these will have their places in a seeker’s perspective. These will not be considered as real. It is when we consider the names and forms as real that we get attached to them (most of the times, overly attached) and thereby will be lead to sorrows in the short and the long run. Once we consider the names and forms as temporary, we will know their place. For eg: the food that we eat isn’t real (as it is Brahman) but it has a place in our life; the food serves as a way to sustain the body. Thus we will eat food but will not consider food as the bare essential entity in life. It is when we consider food as real that we will consider as something very essential and without which we will not live at all. This doesn’t mean that a seeker will go to the other extreme of not eating any food at all – this is where “knowing the place of objects and things” will come to picture. Food has a temporary purpose in the world and this purpose will be used but the purpose will be used only as long as it has to be used. We all use door mats but we use it to remove dirt from our shoes. We don’t use it to sit down on the floor. We use shoes to wear while going out or in the house but we never use it as a pillow. We use a pillow while sleeping but we don’t use it while cooking. We use food to eat but we don’t use food while taking bath. We use the soap to cleanse ourselves but we don’t use soap while drinking water. We use water to drink and take bath but we don’t use to wet ourselves while watching the TV. We use the TV to spend time but we don’t use it while sleeping. Thus if we look at our daily regular chores, we will find that we give a place to each one of them. Similarly we have to learn to give a place to the entire world as temporary and illusory. We can and should use the world but should know its place even as a master knows the place of his son, mistress and servant (all the while he knows that they will not ultimately protect him and thereby he will put himself first than others).
Thus giving the world its place all the while focusing on the non-dual reality of Brahman in the mind, a seeker progresses quickly towards always abiding in Brahman. What initially starts out as an effort becomes effortless and natural in due course of time – when this proper mix of world and Brahman becomes natural, then a person is called a jeevan muktha or a realized being. At this time, irrespective of whether seeing the world or not, only Brahman will be kept in mind even as a person keeps the peel of the banana until the banana is about to be eaten (the peel protects the banana but while eating, it is thrown away). Put in Ramana Maharshi’s beautiful words, when the eyes are open and world is perceived, it is savikalpa Samadhi (when all objects are forms of Brahman); when the eyes are closed, it is nirvikalpa Samadhi (where only Brahman exists); thus always it is sahaja Samadhi or natural absorption in Brahman. Thus the intuitive experience will dawn that the duality in the world is just an appearance and really speaking only Brahman exists.
When this intuitive experience dawns a seeker will always rejoice in bliss irrespective of where he is, what he is doing etc. The world will not pose an obstacle at all and will not be able to create even a ripple in the person; compare this to our state today where even one small word from a fellow being can turn our world upside down (or one oil spill can lead an entire nation into a state of distress).
In the beautiful story of Ambarisha in Bhagavatham, when Durvasa approaches him and unleashes a demoness (Thaatanka) towards him (the entire ground shakes with the steps of the demoness) still Ambarisha remains unaffected and unmoved. Even when Durvasa later comes to him and apologizes, Ambarisha remains very calm and forgets the past instantly while inviting him for food together. The same we find in Mahabali’s story as well; when Vaamana takes the Virat rupa (all pervasive big form) and is about to kill Mahabali, Bali remains calm and even asks his sepoys to not try to attack Vaamana.
Though all these may seem to be unreal and just stories in puranas, these aren’t mere stories. We can very well become like Ambarisha and Mahabali if we were to implement Vedanta properly in our lives. When Prof. Balakrishnan Nair’s wife was in the hospital and in her death bed, Balakrishnan Nair goes there to see her and smilingly says “everything is Brahman, this world is just an illusion”. When a person was about to attack AMMA (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) few years back during her bhajans and the person was caught and lead away, AMMA was still worried about the person’s welfare saying not to harm him. Though Guruji (Swami Tejomayananda) has had major health troubles in the recent past, still one can see him going to various places to give lectures will his usual smiling face and songs.
If all of these masters were able to lead a very blissful life amidst the chaos of the world then we also can do it. But in order to do it we need a proper Guru who will not only show us the route but will take us to the goal and ensure that we attain the goal here and now itself. May we offer our prostrations unto all the Gurus of the world with the prayer that very soon we may also be able to gain the blissful state.