International Forum for NeoVedantins

March Ahead To Advaita

Advaita Vedanta maintains that each soul is potentially divine. Religion consists in manifesting that divinity within, by controlling the nature, external and internal. This can be done by selfless work (Karma Yoga) or worship (Bhakti Yoga), or by philosophy (Jnana Yoga) or psychic control (Raja Yoga), or with the practice of any combination of these yogas. This is the way to Freedom.

In our present state of awareness we are stuck at a particular level or stage of consciousness; religion means to raise ourselves to a state of Divine Consciousness. Then we are liberated. Or, in other words, one must strive to make oneself perfect to allow the expression of Highest Consciousness in our life. This Highest - ever Pure, Eternal, and all Pervading - Consciousness is what is referred to as Brahman.

The last century saw tremendous growth in basic sciences. The world relished a spurt in luxury and comfort under the growth and application of scientific principles as technologies. However, it has become clear that technology has no potential to take humanity to a value-based social order. The copper bottom of applied science is exposed in so far as it failed to inculcate equality, fraternity, and liberty in the world. If one looks at the vast parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, one sees want and poverty, disease and illiteracy. Only a handful people are rich, still fewer are value-oriented rich.

Thus, it is obvious that human values and physical sciences do not go hand in hand. There must be something lacking in, and something must be added to 'science,' to generate values and seek human fulfillment. Could this missing principle be Vedanta? Would it be worthwhile to attempt to establish Vedantic culture as an alternative to scientific culture? Not that Vedanta is unscientific, but it is seen only as a religious philosophy of the East and is looked down upon, or at best sidetracked as non-essential. This indifference towards Vedanta is in fact depriving the humanity to establish culture of 'science of values'. Therefore, one feels a sincere need to study and adopt Vedanta for all round benefit. The national economies under the super-capitalistic phase have merged into global economies. The cult of globalization calls for not only free market economy but also universal spread of knowledge, culture, and philosophical thought. To establish such a social order is the need of the hour.

Advaita Vedanta can act as the basis for various religious and cultural expressions. There is hidden Advaita in each religion and sect, for without such unifying principle no religion or church can survive. In some of these scriptures Advaita principle is obvious, in others it is implied. Let us dig out this hidden treasure, which the priests and the politicians have never allowed to come to surface for fear of losing power over the masses. They are always afraid lest their privileges should be snatched away, or compromised! The selfish motives of the haves must be exposed through selfless principles of renunciation that forms the basis of Advaita in each religion. Therefore, there is no need for anyone to get converted to or embrace other religion. All that is necessary is to reach higher peaks in his/her own religious heights.

In this world of mere utilitarian motives we unfortunately seek 'something' out of Advaita Vedanta as well. We try to acquire spirituality, forgetting that we are already spiritual! Our basic nature is divine, and therefore, we don't have to import divinity from some obscure philosophy or a person. We have simply to remove the obstacles, which mar the proper expression of our true nature. A farmer just opens up the locked gates and the water irrigates the field by its very nature, with full force and energy. Likewise we have to allow flow of divinity in our personality by removing the blockade created by upadhis -adjuncts- of ego, selfishness, and desires.

For this, we have to first ascertain the goal to be achieved and then pay attention to the means. The proper means would take us to the destination; rather the means would make us aware that we were always at the destined peak! We had never fallen, nor anyone else has. Coming to the means that are helpful in removing the mental blocks of ignorance, it would be worthwhile to note that mind is the best instrument that should come to our rescue. The impure mind binds, the purer liberates. With proper training, the binder becomes the rescuer; the jailer becomes the judge who sets you free. This journey of purification of mind is the journey on the royal path of spirituality. For ages, person after persons are treading the path, some with slow pace others with rapid strides.

The problem is we want everything fast. We want to achieve purification in days or weeks at the most. But this is not possible. The highest knowledge calls for equally high sacrifices, hard struggle, perseverance, and honesty. If we are not ready to put our best, it is not compulsory for us to tread this path of self-inquiry or self-realization. But if one reflects for a while, he or she would immediately understand and accept the necessity of such efforts. Take for instance the energy, time, and hardship put in to study even for a university degree in science or arts. Fifteen years of hard work from kindergarten to college is essential to acquire some knowledge in a particular faculty. Still higher, a degree in an engineer or a medical course requires additional efforts in the form of money, energy, and hard work. Then the fellow becomes somewhat proficient in the respective field.

Most people accept such hardships with pleasure, without any grudge. Society welcomes such efforts to acquire secular knowledge and establishes ways and means to reward these efforts. Such rewards are in the forms of jobs and services offered with hefty salaries and pay, and various honors as exemplified by Nobel Prize etc. Apparently, such is not the case with Advaita Vedanta; it does not guarantee monetary returns. Here hardships are further compounded by the necessity of renunciation! One needs to follow such unwritten commands as 'give up luxury, give up comforts, control the senses, and curb the desires'! In short, rigorous sadhana or spiritual practices do not appear to open doors to riches.

But is it really so! Ask any yogi or a person who has sincerely trodden the path to reach the highest, and without blinking his eyelids he would say, 'oh man, what utility are you talking about! All the comfort and luxury, all the wealth and fame, all sense gratifications are but constraints obstructing the way to the full expression of ultimate bliss. The spiritual discipline of Monism has opened our eyes to this fact. The bliss and joy of the ultimate knowledge is beyond worldly comprehension. There is no comparison between the two. That appears like the small shrub before the huge banyan tree!'

So dear friends, there is no compulsion for anyone to undertake arduous disciplines to seek Advaita knowledge. If one is happy with his/her family and friends, social and national state of affairs, if one approves and enjoys the mixture of joy and sorrow of this life we do not have any objection. Knowingly or unknowingly every soul is bound to reach the Truth. Our appeal is for those who might take up this sadhana as the aim in life, a la someone taking engineering or medicine as the aim in life.

If you think you are late, encourage youngsters to join the path of Advaita. For, now the time has come when more and more people should be attracted to this wonderful study of knowledge for which there is no comparison or alternative. Why? Let us mention the utility factor of such an endeavor. If we study the history, we shall realize that civilizations and cultures have bloomed because of these showers of Advaita knowledge. The thread running through the process of evolution is the golden and unbroken thread of Advaita philosophy, and the garland does show the occasional shining diamonds formed out of personification of Advaita knowledge. Buddha and Christ, Rama and Krishna, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Raman Maharshi and Aurobindo, and many more are a few examples. Global ethics and morality, values of selflessness, generosity, and altruism are the gifts such "knowers" of Advaita Vedanta have bestowed upon the humanity. Not for any gains, but just out of love and compassion these great souls come to the earth.
C S Shah

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