Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

A Guideline for a Spiritual Life
Sundararajan Mohan

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Part II of III

Part I of III

Self and Atma dharma

As everyone discovers, and as all our scriptures point out, there is �Self'. This is the important aspect. As an individual, my own Self is extremely important. If this Self is not in a state of balance, in harmony, and at peace, nothing is possible in the outside world. A confused and disturbed person cannot fulfill his duty in the world.

A person who is disturbed or confused finds it difficult to perform his duty effectively in his career and hence in his family. A person in this condition experiences �conflict'. This conflict is essentially between himself and the world.

How does one get rid of this confusion or conflict? The answer is clearly given by Sri Krishna the Bhagavad Gita. It is called sva dharma. The term �sva� means �Atma'. One has a duty to the Self or Atma just as one has a duty to career and family.

The duty to the Self is simply to be able to relate to the Self or Atma. Most of us in our preoccupations with career and family tend to simply forget to relate to the Self; sometimes even to remember the Self. In some cases one may not be even aware of the existence of the Self.

In earlier times, it was a tradition to induct or initiate a young person into the awareness of the Self through a ceremony called upanayanam. With this the initiate moved into the custody of a teacher and entered formal education called brahmacharya. In this process, he was not only taught a variety of secular skills but also a number of spiritual skills and knowledge. This prepared the initiate to face his professional and family life with considerable equanimity.

In modern times, this process of initiation has lost its meaning and education does not have an iota of spiritual knowledge or skills. This could be the reason for so many of us feeling a sense of conflict with ourselves. The key to the elimination of this feeling of conflict, frustration and helplessness is to rediscover the Self or Atma.

Spiritual development an anchor

All spiritual practices are beneficial for this purpose. In my case, I started with worship and prayer to a personal deity. Slowly I progressed to the Bhagavad Gita, fortunately at the hands of Swami Chinmayananda. I got introduced to Swami Vivekananda and through his writings to all forms of yoga. Marriage introduced me to the Puranas, to the concept of the Divine Mother and to pilgrimages. I discovered Sri Ramakrishna and got introduced to the concept of sAdhana and japa and dhyAna, to the possibility of the God Principle being available in human form. Through this I became interested in Advaita and the Unity of Godhead.

It was somewhere at this point that I found myself increasingly sensitive to problems at work. This automatically reflected in tensions at home. But somehow, through this process, Divinity seemed to come recurrently to my rescue in the form of my guru. Holding on to His Feet, I felt anchored and safe, while the storms of all sorts of problems seemed to be waging in the world around me.

Today, after nearly a decade and a half after retirement, I cannot quite say there are no conflicts. But increasingly there is a feeling of unity, of being a witness, of an appreciation that all is Divine and that that very Divinity is my own Self.

Duty to career - dharmya artha

Righteous performance in one's career or profession is an important means of achieving the purpose of life. �atha� in this context refers to the economic aspect of life, through which assets, possessions, wealth and steady flow of money is achieved. In this process, one is forced to communicate and interact with other people. Professional life, like every limb of society is a huge network of people. Interrelationships are critical to helping the network to operate comfortably. Occasionally flare-ups may occur.

What is important is how one carries oneself in this scenario. What is the context, the framework, in which one should operate?

The scriptures indicate this context as �dharma�. This is generally translated as �righteousness�. It is, in itself, a subject matter worthy of careful study. There are many scintillating expositions on dharma.

Thus, when we are talking of artha as a strategic means for fulfilling the purpose of life, we are talking of dharmya artha , not just artha, that is, career or profession carried out in an honest manner, following the dictates of one's conscience rather than the exigencies of the situation.

Sri Krishna explains this beautifully when He explains what has come to be called karma yoga to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sri Krishna seems to anticipate the tensions and conflict that so many of us face in our career when He states in chapter iii, verse 30:

   mayi sarvANi karmANi saMnyasyAdhyAtmachetasA
   nirAshIr nirmamo bhUtvA yudhasva vigatajvaraH

Renouncing all actions in Me, with thy thought resting on the Self, being free from hopes, free from selfishness, devoid of fever (anxiety), do thou fight.

In my very first exposure to the Bhagavad Gita, I was blessed to hear Swami Chinmayananda�s brilliant exposition on this stanza and the whole of chapter iii in the summer of 1958. It made an everlasting impression on the young student.

A study of karma yoga will give you an excellent basis for dharmya artha.

Part III of III

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012