Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Free Soul

On the surface of things, Bengal’s elite have nothing similar to Delhi’s elite. But the three days of Vedanta classes I attended proved otherwise.

While Bengal always stood for simple living and high thinking, Delhi thrives on opulent living and low thinking.

The class led by Pravrajika Vivekprana from Sri Sarada Math, on Vedanta as explained by Sw. Vivekananda, seemed to “lack the luster” of the city in which it was held. It often happens, that the one giving the lecture, out-shines the blinding glitter emanating from the audience, from their sparkling diamonds and shimmering silks, with a personality clothed in more shine and dazzle, so much so that the audience, albeit, shining like a thousand midday suns, may be found wearing Ray Ban shades, in the middle of a late evening lecture inside a Hall!

But here was a sharp contrast – a very subdued sannyasin, emanating the personality of Sw. Vivekananda and yet so, simply dressed in her saffron, un-ironed sari with a chaddar, that in fact, she stood out for different reasons – the lack eye-blinding looks of both the Delhite and Bengalis-living-in Delhi looks. For I must warn you that the Bengali elite in the audience, shone as well, although they may have worn tater saris with large zari borders with their necks and wrists strangulated by the yellow metal – yes, all that glitters is gold, you know of course. And in that sharp contrast of matter, both of body and mind, the class went on for three days. Pearls of wisdom fell – the lectures delivered in New York, 1896 by Sw Vivekanda, The Free Soul.

“There is but one Infinite Being in the universe, and that Being appears as you and as I; but this appearance of divisions is after all a delusion. He has not been divided, but only appears to be divided. This apparent division is caused by looking at Him through the network of time, space and causation.”

At a very scientific level, we know today that all the three mentioned, i.e., time, space and causation, is merely the creation of man, because, without these we are unable to understand the world around us. We need time, to differentiate events, we need space to differentiate objects including, subject-object phenomenon, and we need causation to understand, that one thing is responsible for the creation of another. There is a cause, behind an effect. But, our ancient texts, The Vedas and today’s science have proved that all three are false premises but, we must create these in order to function.

This then brings us to a mighty problem. How then do we explain the origin of the earth and also our own selves?

The concept of Vedanta is also very simply explained in three states. Jagrat, swapna, sushupti. Awake, dreaming and deep sleep.

In the waking state, all things exist. We see the world around us, the houses, the trees, the glittering audience in the Hall, or the subdued sannyasin, in saffron clothing and high thinking. In a dream, one is even able to recreate the same and many other events, because, the mind has picked up impressions of the surroundings enough to make sometimes very coherent dreams and sometimes, fuzzy ones. But in deep sleep, which is a state we sometimes experience, when we wake up in the morning, and say, I had a dreamless sleep and I slept so well, all disappear - the house, the tree, the glittering audience or the subdued sannyasin, even the dreams! This is the state of sushupti, or what Vedantins call deep sleep. Everything disappears in this state, except one thing. That one thing is the Self. Because, in a state where everything has disappeared, even the Self should have. But no, when we wake up, from deep sleep, we are still able to remember that we had a good sleep. Who is it who remembers? Vedantins have told us, it is the Self, the soul which is eternal, without beginning and without end, that is forever there, that Infinite Being which is our true Self.

“There is but one Infinite Being in the universe, and that Being appears as you and as I”.

We are in a state of perpetual dreaming and when we wake up, we realize, just as we realize when we wake up from sleep, that it was all a dream, no matter how factual it seemed while it lasted, there is no world, we are where we have always been, at the very Source itself. We are the Absolute, the eternal, all pervading Presence. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go. There never was a beginning nor will there be an end. We are in fact, The Free Soul.

“I was once traveling in the dessert in India. I traveled for over a month and always found the most beautiful landscapes before me, beautiful lakes and all that. One day I was very thirsty and I wanted to have a drink at one of the lakes; but when I approached that lake, it vanished. Immediately with a blow came into my brain, the idea that this was a mirage about which I had read all my life and then I remembered and smiled at my folly…..the next morning I again began my march and there was the lake and landscape, but with it immediately came the idea, this is a mirage.”- Sw Vivekananda in The Complete Works Of Vivekananda, Volume 3, chapter 6, page 9-10

Likewise, this life and everything around us, the good, the bad and the ugly – It is all a mirage and only when life is no more and the last breath is gone, we will realize, we were always The Free Soul, The Absolute.

So is Bengal's elite simple living and high thinking bejewelled eye-blinders and Delhi's opulent living and low thinking shimmering silks and dazzling diamond, brain drains!

NB: All quotations in this text are from The Complete Works Of Vivekananda, Volume 3, chapter 6
I request Dr Kanchana Natarajan, Reader in Indian Philosophy, Delhi University Kanchana to throw some light in this matter.
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