Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Swami Satchidananda

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Swami Satchidananda

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Purchase The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, from which this extract has been taken.

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4. vRRittisArUpyamitaratra

At other times [the Self appears to] assume the forms of the mental modifications.

You seem to have lost your original identity and have identified with your thoughts and body. Suppose I ask you who you are if you don’t identify with anything whatsoever. If you say, "I am a man," you have identified yourself with a masculine body. If you say, "I am a professor," you are identifying with the ideas gathered in your brain. If you say, "I am a millionaire," you are identifying with your bank account; if "a mother," with a child; "a husband," with a wife. "I am tall; I am short; I am black or white" shows your identification with the color and shape of the body. But without any identifications, who are you? Have you ever thought about it? When you really understand that, you will see we are all the same. If you detach yourself completely from all the things you have identified yourself with, you realize yourself as the pure "I." In that pure "I" there is no difference between you and me.

This is true not only with human beings but with everything. You call something a dog because it has a dog's body. The spirit in a dog and a human is the same. The same is true even with inanimate objects; there is the same spirit in a stone or a wall. If I use the term "spirit," or "Self," you might hesitate to believe me, but if the physicist says the wall is nothing but energy, you will believe that. So, using the scientist's language, there is nothing but energy everywhere. Even the atom is a form of energy. The same energy appears in different forms to which we also give different names. So the form and name are just different versions of the same energy. And, according to the Yogic scientists like Patanjali—and even many modern scientists—behind the different forms of energy is one unchanging consciousness or spirit or Self.

That is why, if we could calm our minds and get to the basis of all these modifications, we would find the unity among everything. That is the real Yogic life. That does not mean we are indifferent to the changes and become useless to the world. Instead, with this experi­ence of universal unity we function better. We will have happy and harmonious lives. Only then can we love our neighbors as our own Self. Otherwise, how is it possible? If I identify myself with my body, I will also see another person as a body and the two bodies cannot be one—they are always different. If I identify myself with my mind, nobody can have a mind exactly like mine. No two individuals have the same body or mind, even twins. Even to the extent of the half-inch-square thumb we are not the same. Ask the fingerprint experts; they will tell you no two fingerprints are the same.

But behind all these differences, in the Self, we never differ. That means behind all these ever-changing phenomena is a never-chang­ing One. That One appears to change due to our mental modifications. So, by changing your mind you change everything. If only we could understand this point, we would see that there is nothing wrong outside; it is all in the mind. By correcting our vision we correct things outside. If we can cure our jaundiced eye, nothing will look yellow. But without correcting the jaundice, however much we scrub the outside things, we are not going to make them white or blue or green; they will always be yellow. That's why Yoga is based on self-reforma­tion, self-control and self-adjustment. When this reformation is accomplished we will see a new world, a harmonious and happy world. That's why we should always keep ourselves free from these wrong identifications.

© 1978, 1984, 1990 by Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville

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