Self-inquiry for busy people

Ava: If I don’t know the self, how can I become established in its point of view?  

Vishnu: By being taught scripture. It tells you about the nature of self (which is just your true nature), it tells you the self’s ‘point of view’ (which is really just your true point of view) and then shows you how to think from that point of view until you directly realize that it’s already your own point of view (and always has been).  

The scripture tells you that you, the self, are the limitless, non-dual, ever-present, eternal, unchanging ‘witness’ of everything. You lack nothing and aren’t affected by anything. In other words, you are completely okay at all times and in all circumstances.

Taking into account what the scripture says about your true nature, examine your fears and desires. If you lacking nothing, are your unnecessary desires warranted? If you are unchanging is there any reason to hang on to unreasonable fears? This is one way to take the ‘point of view’ of the self.

Another way is to remember the scripture’s assertion that you are the unchanging, ever-present reality in which all objects appear, objects being any aspect of external experience (people, places, things) or internal experience (thoughts, emotions, memories). Since you are that in which the objects appear, like a movie screen in which images appear, you cannot be the objects that appear in you, the same way that a movie screen is never the images projected onto it. 

Since you are unchanging, you cannot be an ever-changing object. Since you are ever-present, you cannot be a transient object. Applying this logic to your everyday experience on a moment-to-moment basis is another way of taking the ‘point of view’ of the self. It is called the discrimination (viveka) between the self (atma) and the ‘not-self’ (anatma), or atma anatma viveka. It is continuously distinguishing oneself—unchanging ‘witnessing’ consciousness—from objects. 

Ava: How can I be in the self when I’m surrounded by friends, family, work etc. and not just when I’m by myself?  

Vishnu: It just takes practice. It’s like learning to ride a bike. First you have to have a strong desire.  Otherwise you won’t have the will to get back on the bike when you fall off. Then you simply get on the bike, fall off, get back on and fall off again and again until you develop the ability remain perfectly balanced and ride. After a while, it becomes so second nature to ride the bike that it doesn’t require as much effort. You may even be able to take your hands off of the handlebars!

With Vedanta, you also need a strong desire, specifically the unyielding desire (mumukshutva) for liberation (moksha). Without this, it’s difficult to muster up the effort required to bring the mind back to the point of view of the self when it gets distracted. You simply have to try, get distracted, try and get distracted again and again until the mind remains firmly established in the point of view of the self.

Although thinking from this point of view starts to become second nature, unlike the bike example, don’t be tempted to take your hands off the handlebars of inquiry, so to speak. Self-ignorance is persistent and tricky so if you stop paying attention to it before it’s fully rooted out, it will come right back.

Finally, looking at your initial question from the point of view of the self, ask yourself this: If I am already the self, how you can I ever not be in the self?

Ava: This isn’t coming naturally for me.  It takes effort and concentration which hard to do when I’m busy non-stop and don’t have time to reflect on it.

V: Again, it takes no effort to be in the self because you are the self. It is the most natural thing there is. The hard part is to see that this is true.  When it’s not clear that you already are the self, a lot of effort is required to conduct dedicated self-inquiry, and no, this does not come naturally. It just takes hard work, plain and simple.

Still, it helps to take an objective look at your life and find out if there are people or activities that are needlessly taking up your time (and thus distracting you from inquiry). You might be surprised. Keep only what is essential, get rid of the rest. Whatever is essential, do with a positive attitude.  And do it for it’s own sake, not getting overly concerned with the result.  

Ava: Can people really get self-knowledge when they don’t have a peaceful environment to do self-inquiry?  

V: Absolutely, assuming you are properly qualified—meaning mentally prepared—because self-inquiry is meant to go on at all times and in all situations. It is equally important in times of quiet contemplation as it is in times of stress. In the scriptures there are many examples of enlightened people who had families and busy lives.

So, in no uncertain terms, let me repeat that moksha is possible for any qualified person irrespective of their life circumstances.

And not to put too fine a point on it, saying “I’m too busy for self-inquiry” only means, “I’m not serious about self-inquiry.”  Why?  Because people always make time for what is most important to them.  

Sincerely,
Vishnudeva

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Steady Wisdom: Day 69

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 69

Just as objects made of clay are nothing but clay, the whole universe is nothing but me.  Thus proclaims Vedanta.
-Brahma Jnanavali V.19
Meditation

I am pure being, the “clay” to which the universe owes its existence.  Just as all objects made of clay are nothing but clay, the universe is nothing but me.  And just as clay remains clay despite the appearance of clay objects, I remain pure being despite the appearance of the universe.  OM. 

Read Series Introduction

What is moksha?

Q: What is moksha and how can this state be described? 

A:  From the perspective of Advaita Vedanta, moksha is the direct realization of the fact that 1) You and the universe/God are non-separate from one another and 2) You and the universe/God are fundamentally identical as brahman, the one true reality. To use a common Vedanta metaphor, this realization is like a wave first understanding that it is non-separate from the ocean and then realizing that it is fundamentally identical with the ocean as water.  Here, the wave represents you, the ocean is the universe/God and water is brahman.   

So moksha is realizing “I am brahman” (Brihadaranyaka Upanisad 1.4.10). Since brahman is “defined” for instance, as “that which has no sin, no decrepitude, no death, no sorrow, no hunger, no thirst…” (Chandogya Upanisad 8.7.1) then realizing that you are—and always have been—brahman means that YOU are free from birth, death and suffering. This is moksha i.e. freedom (moksha literally means “liberation” or “freedom” in Sanskrit) and it is synonymous with enlightenment (self-knowledge) in Advaita Vedanta.

Enlightenment in this sense refers solely to the direct realization that you are the ever-free brahman.  Since you are brahman and always have been brahman, this is just the recognition of an already existent fact, not the attainment of a particular state.  By extension, this also means enlightenment is not becoming brahman or merging into brahman.  Why? Because you can’t become or merge into the brahman you already are, similar to the way that water can’t become or merge into the water it already is.  You can only recognize that you already are brahman and that you’re already free.      

All my best – Vishnudeva

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What is samsara in Hinduism?

Q:  What does the term “samsara’ mean in Hinduism? 

A:  Hinduism is very diverse, with numerous different religious sects and philosophical schools.  So you’re going to get different answers depending on who you ask.  To be clear, I am answering from the perspective of Advaita Vedanta, particularly Advaita Vedanta as taught by Shankara, Swami Dayananda and Dayananda’s students.

Swami Dayananda defines samsara as “the life of becoming.” In other words, it is 1) Identifying with the body and mind, thinking it is who you are and 2) Subsequently believing that the mortality and suffering of the body and mind belong to you. Further, you believe that the qualities and character of the body and mind define who you are.

Because of this you are always trying to become something other than what you are.  Perhaps you want to be happier, perhaps you want to become immortal to escape death. Or perhaps you want something more mundane like a slimmer waistline and a more respectable position at work. Either way, feeling like you need to be something other than what you are, that you’re not good enough as you are, or that you’re somehow lacking is a painful cycle: this is samsara.

This painful cycle of thinking that you’re the body-mind continues (perhaps over lifetimes if the theory of reincarnation is true) until you see directly realize that instead of being the flawed, mortal, ever-changing and limited body-mind, that you’re the immortal, changeless, limitless brahman (the very essence of the entire universe) that is always perfect just as it is.

But you asked “What is samsara?” not “how do I end it?” so I’m getting ahead of myself.  That’s an answer for another day. 

All my best – Vishnudeva

Steady Wisdom: Day 39

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 39

Just as all clay pots are nothing but clay, the whole universe is nothing but me.  Thus proclaims Vedanta.
-Brahma Jnanavali V.19
Meditation

Everything that exists is me, existence itself.  And yet, I myself am not a thing.  Just as all clay pots are nothing but clay, the whole universe is nothing but me.  But just as clay is never truly a clay pot, I am never truly the universe or any part of it.  Therefore, I am free from samsara. 

Read Series Introduction