Each 'Choose-day' we will investigate the process by which we can reassess our activity and interaction with the world of plurality and become more congruent within our personality.
Grandiose? Not at all! We make choices each and every day; every hour of every day; every minute of those hours. This is not an overstatement. The important thing to understand is that choices are not necessarily all the major events.
For example; you go and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. Prior to doing this a decision has been made that a cup of tea is required or desired. Well - to be more precise, the concept of a cup of tea arose, bubbled up from the subconscious into the mental forefront wherein, with little or no debate, the kettle gets filled and boiled. The 'pre-natal' decision is actually the prompting of desire which itself may have come from genuine thirst, but can be many other things also. When it hits the more aware part of our consciousness, because this seems inconsequential on the scale of things, we act on the prompt. If it arises whilst we are busy with something (typing an essay, let us say!), we may actually choose not to obey the prompt. We will delay or even sublimate it. More often than not, however, we will act upon the desire with minimal self-assessment as to whether or not the cup of tea is in fact necessary to our existence.
|One of the toughest decisions to make...|
to climb or not to climb?
This is not a flippant example. One of the first things aspiring Vedantins do is begin practicing conscious decisions at all levels - and frequently the good ol' cuppa is sacrificed in the name of experimentation in self-discipline. This will become clear later on.
Why is this important?
The key concept of Advaita is that the only Reality is भ्रमन् /Brahman (...let us use the term Universal Mind at this stage as we are at the bottom of that stair... UM for short... look familiar?) All else is false.
There is big stuff in that little sentence. Reaching the top of the 'stair' we will come to 'realise' this truth and thus become free of the bindings of desires. How to climb though? Easy! One step at a time. The steps are clearly defined, well carved and have been 'trodden' by many, many feet before ours.
UM is not 'God'. It is a condition of being-ness. To keep us aiming upwards, we have been offered the concept of 'God' as a role model. Which is just fine. Those who come to awareness of Advaita Vedanta, however, or indeed the paths of knowledge in any tradition (Gnosticism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Zen.....) are seeking the Truth behind 'God'. This is The Great Mystery of which all saints and sages speak.
What is the first step then? The four-fold practices of which the first is विवेक /viveka - discrimination; discerning the Real from the unreal. Viveka causes us to question, to deliberate, to analyse and clarify. It is the intellect fully integrated and working with razor-sharp capacity to delve into the depths of any situation.
"Gracious!" you declare, "if that is the first step it is too high for me..." Do not turn from a decision to climb the stair dear seeker! The sadhana chatushtaya goes on to advise further steps which will support viveka. The four items are detailed, as is the way of the Rsis**, with a good degree of logic and discernment of their own. One of the interesting things that occurs when we start to apply the principles of Vedanta and listen to its teachings is that our intellect - resident in each and every one of us - livens up. It welcomes the exercise! First, though, it needs to know that there is a requirement, which is why it is top of the list. By saying it needs to be present, it is alerted and has already asked the question 'why?'
Know this, as you take the first step; the Real is that which we shall (for now) refer to as Brahman/UM, it is one thing and only one thing; unreal is the world of plurality.
** the ऋषाः /Rsis (pronounce with French-like R and swishing esses - often written as 'rishis', but we will maintain standard transliteration here as the 'R' is actually a vowel). It is the name of all the Holy Minds who gave us the great thinking and handed down the mysteries of Life so many untold centuries ago.