Congratulations on finishing the first week of the 108 day Steady Wisdom challenge. It is my sincere hope that the statements of Vedanta’s sages are helping you to think differently about yourself. I don’t usually do this, but comments are open below. Feel free to share your thoughts on the process of nididhyasana—after all, as I mentioned in the introduction, sharing with others is also nididhyasana. Also, if you have any questions about nididhyasana, just ask.
One question I was recently asked was, “Why 108 days?” The reason is that 108 is considered an auspicious number in Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). As such, mantras are often chanted in rounds of 108. Malas (Hindu prayer beads) often have 108 beads for that purpose. Further, changing the way you think of yourself takes time, so 108 days seemed appropriate.
Changing your thinking also takes repetition, so you’re going to see a lot of it in this series. It’s a common feature of Vedanta scriptures and it’s not there by accident. Vedanta recognizes that the false notion of self has been reinforced by a lifetime of thinking “I am the body-mind” so it gives the antidote, “You are the self” over and over again to counter the adverse effects of ignorance. Like a slow drip of water boring a hole through a rock, continued meditation on statements of self-knowledge bores a hole through our false notion of self.
The Steady Wisdom series was developed organically over time. As I found verses in the scripture that were helpful for nididhyasana I began to compile them for my own use. Since many of the verses I was using were from the Ashtavakra Samhita, I temporarily set aside the Steady Wisdom series in favor of a doing a full commentary on the Samhita. But with the New Year approaching, I thought it was a good time to restart my work on the series and share it with others. “New year, new you” is a typical New Year’s mantra and to a degree, it applies to this series. Really though, it would be more appropriate to say, “Same you, new way of thinking of yourself.” Why? Because simply affirming that you’re the self doesn’t suddenly turn you into a different self; rather, it gets your thinking in line with the self you already are.
A note on translation: I’ve provided references to each verse so you can look them up for yourselves. Digging in to the scripture is nididhyasana. However, don’t be surprised when my translations differ from those in the source texts. In many cases I’ve converted second person statements to first person statements. For instance, if the scripture said something like, “You are the ever-present self,” I changed it to, “I am the ever-present self.” Many times in scripture a teacher is speaking to a student, telling them that they’re the self. In that context, the second person statement is appropriate, since the student is yet unfamiliar with the self. But considering the purpose of nididhyasana is to fully own your identity as the self, first person statements are needed. Aside from converting some second person statements to first person statements, I also freely re-ordered the wording of many statements in order to make them read easier, thereby making them more useful for recitation and contemplation.