In my understanding of the world, I find myself dwelling a lot these days on the philosophy of Vedanta. The very nature of this philosophy is different to what we are used to hear and think.
Like when we think about God, there are many versions and feelings that arise in mind. Also from time to time, being just 23, I realize people of my age are more and more atheist or agnostic or don’t believe in the concept of religion. Ofcourse I can’t say they are wrong for many atrocities are carried out in this world in the name of religion. And hence it is expected that these misdemenours will have an effect on the current generation to see religion as a false hypothesis of a suffering human mind.
I agree to all this for there is nothing better I can do by condemning it, but still I would like to point out my understanding of Vedanta for I think after knowing it, it helped me think about the world in a better manner, something which after a long time gave me a sense of purpose.
Think about the premordial question about us like this:
Who are you?
- Certainly you are not your name for it is given to you after you were born.
- Thinking yourself as only the body is also not sufficient in this regard. To give a better explaination on this, I would say that indeed body is a means for us to do activities and live in this world, but you cannot reply to this question saying that I am an living entity which has two eyes, two hands, two legs, black/blonde/brown/… hair and so on. Our body define our identity but we are not our bodies.
- Are we our mind then? Now this is where most people think they are. We think this is the last stage of our defining capabilities and this is where Vedanta makes a difference.
Vedanta says that we are neither our body nor our mind. These are mere experiences of the one and only thing that defines us: our consciousness. It is our consciousness that experiences mind and body. Few examples of these are: When you get a headache, you feel the pain. Your body is suffering and you can feel that. That very act of YOU feeling something means that YOU are separate than the ailment. Similarly when we are asleep, we see dreams and get into the habit of believing that it is reality. Only after waking up from the dream and realizing that it ended, we realize that it was nothing but a false projection that OUR mind was seeing. When our mind sees something, it makes US believe that it is real. Similarly when we are awake, our mind projects a reality that is percieved with the help of our senses. Think about this for a second and the next question will be: “Then what difference does it make if your mind experiences dream or what we think as reality?”. Reality or dream, these are still experiences that our mind wants US to believe. There is still something other than mind that experiences it, some really really abstract thing which cannot be put into words. That’s God yo! and the best sages put it in English is via words like: “Consciousness” or “Awareness” .
The next few questions that arose in my mind were: What does it mean for us to be consciousness? What is the nature of this consciousness? What is the form and qualities of this very “thing”. Are you saying that everything that we think we know is actually just an experience of this consciousness thingy? We are not our body, nor our mind but this new thing called consciousness? Silly madmen, you think this world, these sky-scrappers in Manhattan are all just a mere projections!!? Is this consciousness thingy also present in animals then? Also are you trying to say that by understading this philosophy, I will do any better in this world?
Being a skeptic, the natural reply of my mind was: “What sense of purpose are you talking about? Shut up with your lofty philosophies and get real. This is the world and we are who we are!”
My current understanding says that our ideal should be to enquire about the things that are happening around in the world. If everything makes sense to you, you are already God! or maybe … you are not enquiring enough. Certainly my understaning of this world doesn’t make sense and I feel a disconnect here and there. Hence the best I can do is to enquire. With self enquiry, we get to learn about things that we always knew but was just covered by the veil of ignorance. More the self-enquiry, more we will discover ourselves and next time if someone asks who are you, we will know a bit more to answer than saying our name, body or mind.
Okay back to the question of consciousness. SELF is GOD. That consciousness, that awareness is nothing but God. Once a person understands it, does that mean that person will never abstain from engaging in the worldy activities? Does that mean the world will end for him since they are mere experience or the projection? I think for answering this question, one has to completely understand the SELF (the Brahman) and then he/she will know what to do. We right now can only focus on engaging in the world but with the ideal of self enquiry in hope of understanding more about the pure consciousness. What are the practical outcomes of this outrageous philosophy then?
- You see every human being as consciousness which means you can never condemn anyone. The only thing you can try is helping them.
- Submit everything for God. Be disinterested (mind you, there is a subtle difference between disinterest and uninterest) in your work. Think of your work as a devotion for the God and that work will become non-binding. The moment you attach a beneficial outcome to your work, the work starts to bind you.
Religion, art and science are ways to attain the brahman.