Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

An Introduction to Vedanta
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXXIII – Self realization - attitude of mind

In order to recognize what I am, I have to drop all the notions I have about myself, such as ‘I am this body, this mind, this intellect’, etc. I have to shift my attention from all names and forms to the very substantive, because of which all names and forms are known or can even possibly exist. This helps the shift of my attention, from what I think I am, to recognize what I actually am. Vedanta says that you, as the conscious-existent entity, are the very substantive for the whole world of plurality of objects.

Thus self-realization involves three aspects:

1) a recognition that Brahman alone is the absolute truth,

2) a recognition that the world of plurality that we experience is mithyA or is only relative and not absolute, whose substantive is nothing other than Brahman and

3) a recognition that ‘I am’ is none other that Brahman and Brahman alone.

Shri Shankara states these in cryptic form:

1) brahma satyam,

2) jagat mithyA, and

3) jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH.

This is the essence of advaita Vedanta emphasized in the scriptures. For the realization of who am I, all these three aspects are involved. It is not just the simple inquiry of ‘who I am’ but involves clear understanding of the nature of the absolute reality, understanding the nature of the world that we experience and finally the identity of the self as the universal self. Krishna expresses this aspect in two forms (Bhagavad Gita VI 29): Self-realization involves recognition that I am the self in all beings and things, and all things and being are in myself -

sarva bhUtasthamAtmAnaM, sarva bhUtAni chAtmani

From the bhakti point the same statement is expressed as (VI 30): ‘He who see me in everything and everything in me, he alone sees (understands) –

yo mAm pashyati sarvatra sarvaM cha mayi pashyati

Thus, the ‘Who am I?’ enquiry has to culminate in this knowledge. That enquiry has to be done using the understanding of the scriptures as the basis. Hence Vedanta emphasizes three aspects in terms of enquiry: listening to the scriptures (shravaNam), reflecting on the meanings until there are no more doubts (mananam), and internalizing the teaching until it becomes one with the seeker (nidhidhyaAsanam). It is not an intellectual inquiry but it is an inquiry with the intellect. For that inquiry, the mind should be made suitable. What is needed for this inquiry is not a sharp intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) that divides, but a subtle intellect (sUkShma buddhi) that integrates.

It is not the mind that analyzes but the mind that synthesizes; not the mind that classifies but the mind that unifies. It is the mind that sees oneness in the multitude of plurality and not that which sees multitudes as a reality. For that, one needs to develop a certain amount of dispassion and discrimination to pursue that inquiry. Vedanta itself guides the seeker progressively with a methodology of teaching as the seeker matures in his understanding. Hence, as discussed before, an appropriate teacher is required to provide that guidance based on his own experience as a seeker. One is led to an appropriate teacher in the course of one’s evolution towards the higher goal in life, provided one is sensitive enough to recognize those opportunities. One recognizes that ‘this person is my teacher’, when one recognizes the intense benefit that one is gaining by the teaching that one is receiving. Vedantic teaching is not just verbal communication but through the very life that one leads. It is like parents teaching their children not only verbally but by their very living of those values that they teach. A teacher who is well established in the understanding of oneself cannot but demonstrate that understanding that “He is in all beings and all beings are in him” – through his very life that he lives. Once you are exposed to advaita Vedanta, it would not leave you even if you take a detour for some reason. Hence Dattatreya says in the AvadhUta Gita – ‘IswarAnugraht eva pumsAm advaita vAsanA’ – only by the grace of god does one get the inclination to learn advaita Vedanta. It is a graceful way of saying that one has to earn it by contemplative living.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section:
01. The common questions. 27. The Mind of God.
02. Search for happiness. 28. The Paradox of Space and Time.
03. Questions about Religions and God. 29. Living in the Present.
04. Belief that we are Mortal, Unhappy and Ignorant. 30. Relationless Relation.
05. You are not what you take yourself to be. 31. Concept of Ishvara or God-Hood.
06. Problem Definition. 32. Self-realization or God-realization.
07. Vedanta as pramANa. 33. Self realization - attitude of mind.
08. shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. 34. Consciousness and reflected consciousness.
09. Experience versus Knowledge. 35. Conscious and Unconscious Entities.
10. Who am I or what am I not? 36. Real Self and false self.
11. Ego or ahaMkAra. 37. Transmigration of Soul.
12. All about the universe. 38. Witnessing consciousness and reflected consciousness.
13. Creation according to Vedanta. 39. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 1
14. Description of brahman. 40. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 2
15. Progressive teaching method: svarUpa lakShaNa. 41. Mind and Matter: Part 1
16. Carpets and Schrödinger's Cat. 42. Mind and Matter: Part 2
17. Attribute and Substantive. 43. Classification of the Mind: Part 1
18. Does the world exist independent of an observer? 44. Classification of the Mind: Part 2
19. Brahman and the world. 45. Classification of the Mind: Part 3
20. The Cognitive Process. 46. Classification of the Mind: Part 4
21. Perception of the world. 47. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 1
22. What does negation involve? 48. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 2
23. Errors in Perception. 49. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 3
24. adhyAsa or error superimposition. 50. vAsanA-s part 1
25. What is Real? 51. vAsanA-s part 2
26. Transformation-less transformation. 52. Viewpoints of reality.

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Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012