Humble salutations to the Supreme Lord, The Advaitha Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-Duality) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
You must be wondering, “What unconnected topics! What do they have in common? ” Lets explore !
First things first, let us try to arrive at a common consensus in defining a commonly misunderstood term, “liberation“! It is variously termed Mukthi, Moksha, Salvation, Freedom, Enlightenment, etc. by different religions. What does it really mean?
For the majority of us, who are from varied religious backgrounds, liberation is invariably understood as, the freedom (from pain,suffering,unhappiness and the likes) acquired when we die or depart from the physical realm
In other words, it directly translates as “going to Heaven“! Advaitha Vedanta is probably among the minority schools that defines liberation or Moksha in a completely different light. Let’s see how!
What is life?
It is fair to define life as a sequence or series of experiences, one behind the other, from the moment of birth upto death.
What is an experience?
A thought connected to an object, situation, person,etc. is an experience.
There are no experiences without thought !
Where do these experiences take place?
IN THE MIND OF COURSE!
Advaitha Vedanta boldly declares,”There is no world but for thought!” And that would explain why in deep sleep there is only blankness. In the absence of thoughts in the mind, the world disappears!
Every experience, whether physical or mental, is really the play of thoughts in the mind. That I am happy, sad, fat, in pain, angry, hungry, etc. how do we know? We experience all these as thoughts in the mind.
Given the same external temperature, some people are comfortable with it, while others find it hot and some others find it too cold! How can the same situation appear so varied amongst different people? The same applies for emotions, situations, physical objects and anything else in this Creation. No one thing gives a uniform, absolute experience to everyone experiencing it. What one perceives is based on thoughts generated in the mind regarding the object and that certainly stems from the mind(specifically its quality). What thus is qualifying everything in varied measures? This beautiful gift of ours, THE MIND!
In the middle of what you thought was the worst crisis of your life, have you ever been told by the elders,”It’s all in your mind”? Food for thought !
Every minute of our lives is lived through this mind by means of thoughts generated continuously corresponding to various objects.We thus live life ENTIRELY through our minds, either while in waking state or even while in dream where it is the mind alone that is projecting the dreams.
The mind segregates the entire Creation into 2:
- the liked objects (Raaga Vishayaa) and
- the disliked objects(Dvesha Vishayaa).
Objects here includes EVERYTHING, human beings, plants, animals, places,situations etc. This is the start to the problem, level 1 of impurity! An impure mind looking at Creation can be compared to a person wearing, say red colored goggles and looking at the Creation. Looking this way, will we get a correct, objective view of what we are looking at? Obviously it will be only a subjective view which is colored by the goggles. Remove the goggles and we will see life and objects for exactly what they are and what they stand for. Removing those colored goggles is symbolic to removing the impurity of the mind. The vision that arises henceforth, free from “I like” and “I dislike”, a state of equanimity towards everything, is freedom , that is liberation, that is MOKSHA according to Vedanta.
Mind is endowed with other layers of impurity too like greed, anger, lust, pride, envy,jealousy,etc. in addition to likes and dislikes. These mostly stem from likes and dislikes and so when likes and dislikes are handled, all these eventually fade away.
A mind polluted by all these layers of impurities makes us believe that life is a chain of dependance on objects one after another. Anytime “objects” is mentioned, it includes people, place, situations, emotions. By a cleaning and clearing of the mind, it becomes evident that, life can very well be lived, more happily than ever without any dependencies, whether physical or emotional.This is true freedom / MOKSHA! The Ochre clad priests of Vedic tradition bear testimony to this fact. They live without family, money, objects, even begging for their next meal but are embodiments of peace, love,knowledge and happiness. There is happiness with or without objects for such pure minds. However this is not to be misunderstood as giving up all what we have and living without friends and family and objects. We very much will continue to physically live amongst all objects and enjoy their presence but learn to give up our emotional dependance on them and thus handle their absence with maturity. This is real freedom!
A clean mind will generate pure thoughts corresponding to the objects and thus the cleaner and purer the mind is, the more enjoyable every situation in life will be! That is a FREE MIND! It’s not that calamities will disappear overnight to such free minds but only that the same calamity will be perceived differently by a calm, clean, pure mind. This is real liberation/MOKSHA according to Advaitha Vedantha. It is, living a free, liberated life here and now! After all, what guarantees are there to the existence of a blissful heaven in the hereafter! If someone is saying you can make life on earth today as peaceful, beautiful and happy as it would be in “heaven”, I say why not give it a sincere shot. This way we get to enjoy a bonus “heaven on earth” in addition to the “heaven after death” too!
Now, let’s define freedom as we have known it all along.
What is freedom according to most of us?
Fair to say, “Doing what we want, when we want to” ?
One of the famous Acharyas(teachers) of the tradition blatantly comments on the above definition as being “the glory of an animal” which totally lacks discrimination. Advaitha Vedanta says that this is a very skewed definition. In fact, Vedanta defines freedom in a very contrasting manner. It says, the ability of the mind to be able to be in total control (of all the senses )and even say NO once in a while is true freedom. Let’s understand this with an example. Let’s say a person is in the habit of drinking coffee 5 times everyday. If he didn’t have those 5 coffees, would he really be ok? This in fact directly translates to the fact that he is a slave to coffee. Coffee is the one in control of his mind. Whereas, if he is the one truly in control, he will be able to say NO and deny himself a couple of coffees at will. Food for thought !
Thus breaking the dependence of the mind on objects is true freedom.
An impure mind can never be in control over the senses bcos it is driven wildly by the misconceptions, impurities and preferences. It is like a corrupt politician. Can such a person ever judiciously rule his subjects and do any good?
How do we purify an impure mind?
Do we need an external Saviour for freedom? We here are talking about freeing our minds from its dependencies and impurities. Who can help the mind that we alone know intimately? This is where a religious life (preferably aided by a Guru(teacher) who teaches Scriptures)comes into play. By living a life governed by morals, values, religion and ethics, the mind will be purified everyday, every minute. The idea however is not to get stuck at this level. As my Acharya stresses often , “A Religious life of purification is incomplete if it doesn’t lead to philosophy /Enquiry into the Self and the latter is impossible without going through the former!”
It is in this light that every major religion prescribes austerities like fasting (Ramadan-Muslims,Lent-Christians, many different Upavasas-Hindus) during the course of one’s religious life. Such willful self denial rituals are meant to attain mastery of the mind over the senses. However, many a times, we fail to understand the depths of meaning from which such rituals arise and simply give them up or do it mechanically just because the Scriptures say so. The loss is absolutely ours to pay in such case, which results in us having an uncontrolled , unruly mind which whips us up and down through each of the situations that come and go.
We should purify our minds by living a committed,religious life so that we can shine forth in true brilliance as instruments of God. Only such people, who have purified and mastered their minds can truly be embodiments of love, peace, knowledge, compassion and understanding which the world is in desperate need of today, more than anything else !