Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 14

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




Buy from Amazon US

Buy from Amazon UK
. Available from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan centers at London, New York and Sydney.

. Also through the IBH Books & Magazines Distributors Pvt. Ltd. - contact In case of difficulty, can be contacted.


Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
ISBN: 978-81-7276-457-9
Format : Paperback
Pages: 324
List Price: US$7.00

Where to Buy


Go to Part 13

IX - Naturally abiding mind or samadhanam

The nature of our mind is to shift its attention, as only then we can know things. The problem arises when it moves away from the chosen occupation. It generally happens on two counts. We may be interested in too many things or doing more than one thing at the same time. The second is lack of either intellectual or emotional interest in what we are doing. Çästra has prescribed the qualifications taking these into account. Through discrimination, we discern that our essential pursuit is to obtain self-knowledge. Through dispassion, we remain free from unessential pursuits. Through çama and dama, we have a hold on our mind, the sense organs and organs of action. Through titikñä, we have the physical and mental capacity to withstand the difficulties of living and devote ourselves to the pursuit. Through uparama, we withdraw from all unnecessary activities. Through çraddhä, we have trust in what we are listening to. As a result of these, our mind becomes relaxed and is naturally alert. It has objectivity and enjoys equanimity. In other words, it has cittaçuddhi and has become capable of devoting itself to the subject of study with mental poise. In this state called samädhänam [85] , the mind naturally abides. This contemplative quality of the mind is an important qualification for understanding the self. This condition is not the same as concentration where a distracted mind is temporarily forced to focus on the subject. The self is undifferentiated and to recognise it, our mind must be in a state as similar to it as is possible [86].


X - Intense desire for freedom or mumukShutvam

Our mind is now fully available for study. For sustaining this state, the desire to be free must be so intense that it prevails over all other desires like the big fish gobbling up all the smaller ones [87]. Upaniñads call such a competent and committed seeker of freedom as dhéraù [88] or the person who makes the best use of his intellect. Kaöha Upaniñad presents one in the young boy Naciketas. When he seeks the knowledge from Yama, the Lord of Death, Yama tries to dissuade him from his pursuit by offering to make him the emperor of the world with all the pleasures including those not attainable in this world and with as long a life as he wants. Naciketas rejects them outright saying that life in any world is finite alone and tells Yama “let all your celestial vehicles, dance and music be yours only” [89] and insists on the knowledge being imparted to him [90]. This is what ideal seeking is. While dispassion keeps us away from the non-self, it is the intense desire for freedom that turns us resolutely towards the self.


Having set out the necessary qualifications, we shall look into the methods prescribed for preparing the mind for self-knowledge in the next chapter.



I - Likes (rAga) and dislikes (dveSha) are the impurities of the mind (mala)

The çästra, besides prescribing the qualifications to gain self-knowledge, also indicates the methods of preparing the mind for self-knowledge. For detailing this, let us start at the very beginning when we are lacking in discrimination. At this stage, we are nothing but a collection of likes and dislikes. We desire particular objects, persons and situations that are the source of pleasure to us and dislike such of them which cause unhappiness in us. Based on the desires and dislikes in our mind, actions prompted by them [92] arise. The problem with these actions is that they do not resolve desires and dislikes but perpetuate them. Success creates a liking while failure brings about a dislike. As a result, the mind is always under their hold. They distort the meaning of the words of even the most competent guru. In their presence, if we are told that we are full and complete, we cannot understand that. They are therefore considered as the impurities of the mind (mala).


II – Values help us to avoid improper actions born out of our likes and dislikes

When our actions are governed by our likes and dislikes, we are not generally concerned as to whether they are in keeping with the injunctions of the çästra or in conformity with the universal values like non-injury, truthfulness. In those situations, while we are aware as to what the proper action is, we know that we are not doing it. This creates a split in the mind and it prevents us from enjoying anything fully. Our sense of togetherness with the total order is also vitiated by our breach of the order through our acts contravening dharma and we feel alienated from it. This creates a sense of insecurity. We become a loser in both ways.


For guiding us towards proper conduct, Bhagavadgétä lists the values that are to be followed by us as seekers of knowledge so that we may make the right choice while performing actions and in transacting with others [93]. When we follow values in life, the choices that we make are not any more based on our likes and dislikes but on the criteria supplied by the values. But, it would be possible for us to do so only if we analyze their exact implications and understand as to how they become valuable to us. Without it, they become a list of do’s and don’ts that are imposed on us. So, it is necessary for us to understand the value of the values so that our mind accepts them and makes them its own. Only then, we would be inclined to act in accordance with the values. Otherwise, they create a conflict in the mind and produce a feeling of guilt when our actions are guided by our likes and dislikes and not by the values.


We may now look into the more important of them.


The cardinal value is the value for a simple, tranquil mind. Every value, when analyzed, ultimately leads to only one value of acquiring such a mind. All our efforts are only to make us happy with ourselves and have a mind that is quiet and content. So, if the action based on our likes and dislikes does not bring this about, we must realize that persisting with it is valueless to us. This constitutes the basic discriminative discernment (viveka).


Truth is our nature and we instinctively value it. Speaking untruth makes us the deliberate doer of false action at the level of speech. We know the truth and know instinctively that truth has to be spoken but we cannot do it. This fact makes us judge ourselves as the person who cannot do what he wants to do. Such a person is not fit for Vedänta or for anything worthwhile. Speaking the truth with understanding and conviction maintains the alignment of action with thought, avoids conflict in the mind and brings about a tranquil mind suitable for self-knowledge.


Straightforwardness (ärjavam) is a value allied with truthfulness. It consists of freedom from mental angularities and being open. There is no variation between thought, word and deed. It keeps our mind uncluttered and simple.


Non-injury (ahiàsä) is another basic value. It is the attitude that we should not hurt anybody, as we do not like to be hurt by any one. We can injure others through body, speech or mind (through negative thoughts). By being sensitive to the rights and points of view of others, including members of the animal and plant kingdom, we can avoid deliberate injury. Practice of non-injury changes us into a sensitive person and makes it easier to own our true nature through knowledge.


Absence of pride (amänitvam) is an important value as without it, it is not possible to retain a peaceful disposition of the mind. As a proud person, we expect others to recognize and respect us. We are hurt and angry when the response falls below our expectations. Thus, our happiness depends on others giving us respect. When we are hurt, we start planning to teach a lesson to the person who has caused the hurt. The hurt does not heal itself easily like the physical wounds. It remains intact and we continue to be disturbed. To avoid it, we should be content with what we have so that we are happy regardless of whether it brings us respect or not. This attitude makes us a person with a harmonious frame of mind.


When we are proud, we expect to be respected for what we are; when we are pretentious, we show off more than what we are. Pretension arises out of the deep sense of inadequacy. When we are pretending, we deliberately remain away from ourselves. When we cannot be with ourselves, acquiring self-knowledge is impossible. We have to face ourselves and own up to the limitations that hurt us and avoid the disintegration of our personality through unpretentiousness (adambhitvam).


Accommodation (kñänti) is a saintly value like non-injury (ahiàsä). A saint does not consciously hurt another person in any way and accommodates persons just as they are and has the endless capacity to accept others. He grants others the freedom to be what they are. When we are accommodative like the saint, we respond to the person and not to the action. We see wrong action as a mistake born of inner conflict and are humane to the person who commits it. The attitude to be accommodative expands our heart to accept people as they are, without desiring or demanding that they be different. Our mind is tranquil in any situation that we face. Such a mind is receptive to self-knowledge.


85.Samädhänaà kim? What is samädhänam? Cittaikägratä| Unwavering steadiness of the mind.  (Çaìkaräcärya, Tattva-bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, p. 16.)
86. Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad, 4.4.23. says: Tasmädevaà vicchänto dänta uparatastititkñuù samähito bhütvätmanyevätmänaà pasyati.. Therefore, he who knows it as such becomes self-controlled, calm, withdrawn into himself, patient and collected; he sees the self in his own self; he sees all as the self.
87. This is called intense seeking of freedom or tévra-mumukñutvam.
88. Dhiyaà yaräti iti dhéraù|
89. sarvaà jévitamalpameva tavaiva vähästava nåtyagéte|Kaöha Upaniñad, 1.1.26.
90. This is called jijñäsä-vairägya or desire for knowledge born out of dispassion.
91. This chapter is based essentially on Swami Dayananda, The Sadhana and the Sadhya.
92. Desire-prompted action is called kämya-karma.
93. Bhagavadgétä, 13. 8 to 12. They are: humility, simplicity, non-injury, forbearance, honesty, service to the teacher, purity, steadfastness, self-control, detachment from sense objects, absence of egoism, constant awareness of misery in birth, death, disease etc., dispassion, non-identification with son, wife, house etc., equanimity in desirable and undesirable situations, unswerving devotion to Éçvara, seclusion, non-indulgence in people’s company, constant self-enquiry and not losing sight of the fruit of knowledge. These are dealt with in detail in Swami Dayananda, The Value of Values.


Go to Part 15


Page last updated: 19-Feb-2015