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.


Kanchana Natarajan said...

you have succinctly put the central teaching of Advaita whether through Samkara or Sw Vivekananda, all pearls and silks fade into oblivion, all names and forms fade into nothing, all you and me also fade into a mass of one undivided consciousness called the deep sleep,
much before the science took up the issue of space, time and causality as construct, Vedanta had clearly seen them as mental ideation. the soul is ever free despite what we may think about them, a rope continues to be rope whther you call it a snake, or a garland, so with te immutable self, it remains in its pristine form whether you call it good bad, ugly, beautiful or rich or poor or whatever,
keep it up, wonderful,

Kanchana Natarajan said...

a poor farmer once was lying on a cot taking a nap. he was peacefully sleeping perhaps dreaming. in a little while his wife came weeping and howling trying to wake up the farmer from his sleep. the farmer woke up at last and asked her why she was crying. amidst her sob she said that their only son died of snake bite. the farmer burst into laughter, the angry wife asked him if she had turned mad, he said "no i was wondering whether i should cry for all the princes and princesses that i just lost, when you woke me up from the wonderful dream or to cry for this one child!
one of the central point of vedanta is that wakeful is just the same as the dream, in that both both collapse in deep sleep!

Julia Dutta said...

Dear Dr Natarajan,
Thank you for your inputs. They are very valuable for this post, in the light of the fact that it is such an simple thing to see, that the Soul is free, away from all dreaming states, whether awake or in sleep, and yet so hard to accept, because True Knowledge, is hard to grasp and hold on to. Or we like to believe it is. It is easier to say, I, thou, He, me, the Universal Energy and me....duality, multiplicity is all we can feel comfortable to think or dream about, like your farmer dreaming of many Princesses and Prince. I do hope you will continue to visit this post occasionally to answer any querries if there are any. In the meantime, the talks were spakling, to say the least!

Kanchana Natarajan said...

dear Julia,
you do not have to wait till the last breath is stolen away from you, even when you are in deep sleep you spontaneously leave your identity along with all your jewelery, be it pearl or diamond, or whatever, outside like hanging your coat on the coat hanger,and then enter deep sleep, of peace and tranquility,
this is the most important message of Vedanta, reflect on deep sleep, to figure out what continues and what discontinues, the trouble is we do not want to reflect!

Julia Dutta said...

Dear Dr Natarajan,
the trouble is we do not want to reflect! - unless it is a Golden light or for that matter a diamond one!! Sorry to make a joke of a profound truth, but yes, we always prefer to stay away from reflecting on Self, as that way we have an easier way out - to hold everything and anyone responsible for all the happings in our lives. Thank you for your active participation..

Ash said...

interesting post!

Julia Dutta said...

Thanks Ash!

Manjul Bajaj said...

I really enjoyed reading this post - its a relief to know someone else apart from me also wonders about why people wear Raybans indoors in the evening! What kind of low life high living is that?

More seriously, loved the reflective probing and the lovely pics and kanchana's comment about the farmer dreaming of princes is really thought provoking - I sometimes wonder when we wake up from our dreams within dreams within dreams will we able to feel everything all at once or nothing at all.


Julia Dutta said...

Dear Manjul,
What an engaging and a self reflective comment! The best I ever read from you.
Your guess is as good as mine - when we wake from the dream, within dream, within dream, will we realise it all at the same time? But, Vedanta says, we will, like we know when we wake from our night/day dream, it was after all a dream. Thanks for your comment,