The Difference Between the ‘Enlightened’ & ‘Unenlightend’

THE QUESTION

Shelly:  I’ve been studying Vedanta for over a year.  My mind is more peaceful but I feel like there is more to be done.  I can intellectually understand that I am the self but am not living the truth that I am awareness.  What’s next? 

THE ANSWER

Vishnudeva:  “She who considers herself free is free indeed and she who considers herself bound remains bound. ‘As one thinks so one becomes,’ is a popular saying in this world and it is quite true.” -Astavakra Samhita 1:11

The only difference between a so-called ‘unenlightened’ person and an ‘enlightened’ person is that the ‘enlightened’ person not only knows they are the self but completely accepts it.  They take the self to be their primary identity and let the implications of that identity start changing the way they think, meaning they let the knowledge, “I am always just fine no matter what” start reducing the frequency and severity of their emotional disturbances. 

So the next step for you is to keep dwelling on the teaching with the aim of recognizing that there is no gap between what you know and who you are.  If you know the self is free, then you should know that you are free.  Fully own that knowledge and start living accordingly.  That is “living the truth” because you are living in harmony with how things really are.  If at first it feels strange to live your life from the vantage point of self-knowledge, don’t be concerned.  After all, it is a perspective that is radically different from the one you’ve had your whole life.  But keep practicing.  Over time your confidence will grow and your peace of mind will increase.* “As one thinks, so one becomes.”  People try to make self-knowledge to complicated when it really is as simple as that.      

That being said, I’d like to make one more point.  Having a peaceful mind is an excellent thing but peace of mind is only the secondary objective of Vedanta.  How so?  Because the primary point of Vedanta is to show very clearly that you are not the mind.  Why is not being the mind better than having a peaceful mind?  Because the mind can never be fully controlled, which means that even if it’s primarily peaceful, there will be times when it is angry, agitated, sad etc.  So when the mind is less than peaceful, having the knowledge, “I am not the mind” let’s you know that regardless of the condition of the mind, you are still okay.  And that is real peace of mind.     

All my best – Vishnudeva

*A note to others: I highly recommend that people practice living from the perspective of the self—meaning taking the self to be their primary identity—even when they don’t yet fully understand how they can be the self.  This may seem disingenuous but it isn’t.  Why?  Because regardless of whether you understand that you are the self or not, it’s still true.  Owing to that fact, “faking it until you make it” is a productive practice on the path to knowledge because self-knowledge is a matter of identity.  Therefore practicing taking the standpoint of your true identity is very helpful as you do your inquiry.  And when inquiry yields doubt-free self-knowledge, you’ve already laid the groundwork for improved peace of mind because you’ve already practiced viewing yourself as the limitless, eternal reality that you are. 

How do you do this?  Every time you come across a statement about the self, put it in first person.  For instance, if you read, “The self is existence-consciousness-bliss” say to yourself, “I am existence-consciousness-bliss.”  This breaks down the idea that the self is something somewhere ‘out there’ that you need to attain and makes it clear that it is none other than who you are.   

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