Advaitic concepts are difficult to practice as we are immersed in the sea of duality in everyday life. Most serious Advaitic followers, therefore, tend to spend their time either in contemplation and meditation or in reading scriptures. There comes a time when an aspirant asks himself how he should practice advaita in daily life. If one is blessed with a guru in close quarters, the practice would be easy; otherwise not.
One of the central precepts of advaita is that one does not have likes and dislikes; one does not have attachment [rAga] or aversion [dveSha]. How difficult to rise above rAga and dveSha!
Let us examine how we get this propensity for attachment or aversion. The behaviors we cultivate from our childhood are difficult to break. A child starts loving certain toys and candies and dislikes others. We prefer chocolate of X brand and not of Y brand. This tendency is cultivated in so many small things over the years.
We, as grownups and even as senior citizens, still have many likes and dislikes. We like a particular newscaster and watch the TV news and dislike other newscasters. We like the way a particular politician or public figure dresses… the list can go on.
Can we practice dispassion – above likes and dislikes – in small matters to begin with? Of course, we have enormous destructive prejudices which fuel our emotions. We don’t like people of certain color or ethnicity or nationality or religion or even political affiliation… we store up not only dislike but also anger and resentment.
There was a time when I could not love a person or be close to him because he was a not a vegetarian. With great difficulty, I overcame that dislike or deep seated prejudice. We all have to work hard to get rid of likes and dislikes before we can attempt to think of spiritual heights in Advaitic tradition. Start with small likes and dislikes first…
Perhaps one aspect we have to work on is the likes and dislikes based on gender. For a staunch Advaitin, the gender should not be a perceived factor at all – the supreme Self is beyond male or female form for there is no form at all. Can we get rid of the notion of male or female from our mind? How difficult is it?
There is a story in Mahabharata: A great sage was walking in the woods. He saw some girls taking bath in a pool, completely naked. His son was following the sage at some distance. The sage shouted at his son to close his eyes and walk towards him. The son walked with closed eyes. After some time, the son asked his father why he wanted him to close his eyes. The sage told that he saw some girls bathing in the nude in the pool and he was worried that he (the son) would be mentally defiled. The son calmly asked the sage: “Father, do you still see a woman and a man?”
True dispassion goes beyond the gender differences… an Advaitin should attempt this.
The present author admits that it is extremely difficult to go beyond rAga and dveSha. But if we cannot practice this even in small matters, how Advaitic siddhi [Advaitic attainment] or Realization is possible? Let us examine our mind constantly to practice dispassion. Huge effort is indeed required!
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