Humble salutations to the Supreme Intelligence, The Advaitha Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-Duality / Advaitha Vedantha) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
First things first, let me clarify, ‘Spirit’ mentioned in the title refers strictly to the Self or Consciousness 😉!
To me it has always seemed like society is clearly demarcated into those on “the path of Spirituality” and “the others”! But apparently I’m wrong! Some intelligent intellects know clearly the path they are on while others just don’t know, that’s all! Let’s explore…..
What are all humans constantly seeking? Unanimous answer would be HAPPINESS and that too undisrupted if possible! Today we are seeking that happiness through people, relationships, objects, wealth, assets, travel, possessions, etc. Really speaking, animals and plants are in the same quest too except that their definition of happiness is limited to what makes them secure, whether food, shade (for animals), sunlight (for plants), water, a mate, etc. So in short, all living being are in the unending quest for happiness. A small group of thinking intellects among them however, having received blows and punches from people and the world outside, have turned this very same quest for happiness from the gross world outside to within themselves. This group of people is what the world dubs “Spiritual”. Whether inside or outside, both groups of people are really in search of the Self alone! How?
The Upanishads (ancient text on Self Knowledge) define the Self / Aathma as:
SAT – CHIT – AANANDA
Existence – Consciousness – Limitlessness
These words define the very nature of the Self. Just as the very nature of fire is heat, the very nature of the Self is
- Existsence in the form of the very spark of life in us
- Consciousness because of which we know or are aware of everything and
- Limitlessness which translates as wholeness / completeness / satisfaction / fullness / infinitude / bliss infinite
Next the Upanishads also add that, I / the Self am eternally of the nature of love, compassion, knowledge, perfection, purity, bliss, satisfaction. What 😱😱? That certainly makes us smirk, doesn’t it? Our experience seems to be the exact contradiction of literally every word in such description. We are masters of hate, enimity, ignorance, imperfection, impurity, sadness, misery, limitation and the list can go on. How to resolve such a blaring contradiction?
Remember (from the previous blog) that the mind is endowed with impurities and ignorance of the Self? Not recognising that our true nature is love, perfection, satisfaction, knowledge, etc. the projecting power of the mind’s ignorance, first things first, makes us believe that the body-mind is the real I and then makes us assume that all the qualities that this body-mind lacks, are present in objects outside. Then there begins our hunt outside!
We are the source of our own happiness!
Limitlessness when expressed through a calm mind is experiential happiness. Or to put it simply,the Self shining through a clean, clear mind is experiential happiness.
When we acquire an object we desire, why do we feel happy? It may seem like happiness is coming from the object outside but really speaking, as soon as the desired object is acquired, the mind which until then was agitated by thoughts of how to acquire, suddenly becomes calm and quiet. Such a calm, quiet mind becomes a perfect reflecting medium which shines forth a beautiful, clear reflection of the Self which itself is nothing but satisfaction / happiness. That is why we feel happy. But only thing, we wrongly attribute that happiness which really is coming from within ourselves, to an object outside. This is similar to a dog chewing on a dry bone and attributing the blood from its own gum to the bone!
Not knowing that our true nature is happiness itself, the projecting power of ignorance, falsely makes us think that happiness lies in people, objects and the world around around us. There begins our journey into the world of objects, with begging bowl in hand and the “Do you love me, do you love me?” chant on the lips. Really speaking, we are beings endowed with and capable of giving love abundantly and without restrictions, whether or not we receive love in return. It’s just that we’ve never tried living this way because the impurities in the mind called dislike, jealously and hatred curtail us from freely giving out this infinite love that we are. Note that I said “we are” and not “have”! Scripture asserts that love is not an attribute we possess but it is our very nature, just like the sweetness of sugar!
My Preceptor teaches, “Happiness is not defined by what you HAVE, but it is defined by what you ARE!” How else can the smiles on these kids faces be explained? All they have to play with is types and sticks. While we provide for our kids, PS4s, Apple watches, the latest smart phones, etc. to keep them humored, there are children living below the poverty line in many countries who aren’t sure when they’ll eat their next meal even. Yet, through their frugal existence, they manage to smile the same smile of the privileged class, how?
How else can we explain the peace and calm on the happy faces of monks who have renounced everything but an extra pair of clothing to change into! Such monks, whose very wealth is their knowledge and wisdom, voluntarily give up possessions which includes worldly objects as well as people. Identification with the finite is given up for the sake of identification with the Infinite since Infinite includes the finite anyways. They are beacons of Peace, love and satisfaction, how? I’ve had the privilege of spending an hour with my Preceptor one on one (the person in the picture) when I went to visit him to seek his blessings. I can say with conviction that it was the best one hour of my lifetime. A simple man surrounded by nothing other than books and more books but with a smile and demeanor which radiated a certain peace, calm and love! I’m quite a hyper person myself but even as I approached his doorstep, I felt a rush of peace and calm within me. Such is the aura of great men of wisdom and they say animals and birds are attracted to such beautiful people naturally.
We view the world from the vantage point of our mind’s condition! The world is a reflection of our own thoughts! The dress conscious person sees everyone as walking hangers because it’s the clothes that have his attention. Start the day well and notice that everything invariably is happy and cheerful all through the day. Start it in anger / irritation and the world duly complies with that state of mind by presenting forth situations inciting more anger and irritation. Everything literally is within the control switch of our own mind, however illogical or crazy that might sound!
The Self is free from time and space
As this limited individual, we feel restricted time wise and space wise too. The Self is however defined as free from time and space! Thankfully, that’s not a hard fact to verify even in our everyday experience! What is our experience in deep sleep? There is neither time, nor space, not even body, mind and world. Only as we wake up, i.e. as the mind slowly comes into function again, there springs time and space. Try it as an experiment by waking up real slowly the next few times. It feels like something clicks into the body and only after that happens, body and simultaneously surrounding comes into the picture. The Preceptor points out that it is our space wise “apparent” restriction of the body that drives us in a frenzy to travel the entire world. Time wise when we feel restricted in the present, we travel in time by reminiscing about the past or constantly projecting future possibilities in terms of infinite, incessant thoughts. Like the famous Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” The biggest effect of time wise limitation is the fear of mortality or death. Death belongs to the physical body. Self is defined as limitless or infinite which is eternal. How can something that is eternal come and go? It always has to BE, isn’t it?
See the BIG FALLACY here then? What we are seeking is the Self itself whether in terms of happiness, satisfaction, contentment, immortality, knowledge but in the wrong place, outside! This is like owning a land which really is a Gold mine, but not knowing the fact, begging for a living! That is how pathetically we live life say the great Seers! We ourselves are the fountain of security, wholeness, completeness, satisfaction, happiness, etc. but not knowing this, are on an eternal wild goose chase and that too in the wrong place! As long as we are stuck searching in the world, we don’t qualify as “Spiritual”, even though Self is what we are really after. The minute the wild goose chase tires and wears us out, some intelligent seekers turn their search inwards and now they are ‘SPIRITUAL’!
Why do we seek the Self?
Out of ignorance of our true nature we have wrongly attributed exactly all the opposite qualities onto ourselves, starting with taking the limited body and mind as the real I. Even though we don’t know that this is untrue, it upsets something in our being because it is opposed to what we really are. Thus, to fix that situation, we are on an eternal quest! That is why ill health upsets us and we immediately want to fix it back to good health, perfection being our real nature. Similarly, the smallest sadness sends us scrambling on a quest for happiness because it is happiness which is my real nature. We will not accept anything that is opposed to our real nature and that is the biggest reason why death is indigestible. Why? Because, immortality is the nature of the Self or I!
Now, having said all this, we shouldn’t immediately conclude that Vedantha is proposing dropping the world and people right now and retiring to the forest to contemplate upon our true nature!
I’m not sure of how it works in other parts of the world but in India and especially among the older folks, such a turn inwards, especially in a relatively young person (i.e. one who still doesn’t have joint problems, gray hair, has well working faculties, etc.) brings with it lot of fear and apprehension. They worry that this new Spiritual aspirant is going to abandon them and all others and run away to a life of seclusion and monk hood. It is necessary at this point to clearly understand the difference between
giving up due to dispassion
Here is the dictionary definition of both terms:
Abandon – desert, leave high and dry, turn one’s back on, give up
Identifying with the Self is characterised by dispassion rather than abandonment! Some might ask, “Isn’t it selfish, to be emotionally uninvolved?” To such a question the answer simply has to only be another question, “Is it selfishness to grow up and learn to be emotionally stable and mature?” Today’s world and corporate environment drive us only to grow intellectually. Nobody seems to care about emotional growth and balance. IQ would be of no use really in a person who has low EQ! Spirituality is the training ground for EQ development and management. It equips one with the skill to face the same life, world and people in a completely new light. It makes us realize that the world won’t and can’t be changed. It is I who have to change!
There is no denying that there have been mighty spiritual leaders who abandoned day to day life to lead a life of seclusion and contemplation upon the Truth but there have been an even greater number of commoners and Kings who gained Self Knowledge and lived free, liberated lives right where they where in life and society.
We all as children loved and played with balloons. But today, as grown ups, what is our feeling towards balloons? Dispassion! If a balloon flew by me today, I won’t turn my head away saying I’m too old for it, i.e I don’t abandon it. I still will give it a light tap and fool around a little with it maybe. Let’s say the balloon pops while I do so, am I going to sit and cry over it? Absolutely not! Why? Because I have dispassion towards it. I neither love nor hate it. If it is available I learn to enjoy and if it’s not, I don’t whine over it’s absence. This is Dispassion, There is neither love nor hate in dispassion! There is no emotional entanglement with it either because of which I either cry or laugh. There is a sense of equanimity, objectivity, balance.
How does this Dispassion arise?
Ideally, Dispassion happens naturally like a fruit ripens on a tree! The little child is given the chance to play with balloons for as long as his heart wants it. There comes a time when he himself automatically gives it up. Similarly, Scriptures, like a mother who lovingly gives the kid balloons, introduces us to the world of objects, emotions, relationships and hopes that we will grow out of them one day ourselves. Unfortunately for us, we have become too identified with everything and everyone around us!
Just imagine if we could develop dispassion towards not just balloons, but every other object (includes physical objects, people, relationships) that we are running after today. We don’t drop / abandon them at the drop of a hat but learn to live with them and amongst them but through time, slowly developing dispassion towards them all.
Somehow the word dispassion brings with it negative connotations. So maybe we will use the words objectivity or neutrality. Sounds much better right away, doesn’t it? The more objective we are, the more efficient we can function with respect to a particular situation. My Preceptor says, “Objectivity ensures acceptance of natural laws without resistance, like death.” In the home where a death has happened, it is normally the relatives who can work more efficiently than the immediately attached family members, why? The relatives have a more objective viewpoint than the attached members.
By owning up our true nature which is love, satisfaction, wholeness, infinitude we automatically reject the false illusion of the same coming from external objects. Thus we automatically develop objectivity / neutrality towards everything in the world. I read these powerful lines this morning in an Upanishad commentary book and it goes perfectly well in this context I would say. It reads, “Knowledge is disintegration of personality (the lower ego centric body-mind I) and integration of being(Self).” “Faith in Truth is disbelief in phantoms.”
We can choose to remain “Spiritual babies” all life long and run after things meaninglessly or go through the gamut of life, experiences and emotions allowing each of them to teach us and be willing to change necessarily through each of them. Then we pass the school of life as “Spiritual graduates”. Like someone beautifully said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” So, let’s make the best of our human experiences!
OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!