'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta
FIVE VERSES ON SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. Written by Sri Adi Shankaraachaarya. Please click on the relevant label and ensure to review the posts till date.
Our final session on Saadhana Panchakam. It is worth noting that in the pamphlet version (available through Chinmaya Publications - see sidebar for link), each 'paada' is numbered 1 to 40, properly defining that there are forty steps to be explored. Here it was chosen to keep within the shlokas themselves and numbering each as 1 to 8 within those. It is worth memorizing the steps and it was considered that keeping the shlokas individual, given that majority readers here have English as first language, works slightly better when split this way. Write out each of the steps on a single piece of paper and place it somewhere that you will stop and look at it each day (in your meditation area would be ideal!). This text can be extremely complex, or extremely simple, depending on your application of Vedanta and thus, having the steps before you as a reminder, can help you also gauge your progress. With each moment of growth, you will find deeper understanding and appreciation of the qualities pointed out by this amazing 'big little text'! Now to complete.
Shloka Five. Paada Five.
Conquer the effects of deeds done in earlier lives by present right action. When we get to learning more about प्रारब्ध/praarabdha (destiny) this will make a great deal of sense. Even in this life itself, we have a sense that 'what goes around comes around', or that 'what is for you won't go by you' and other such homilies. To put it scientifically; for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. The quantum/chaos analogy is the fluttering of a butterfly's wings in the forests of Brazil contributing to the gales of the world - which eventually of course will come round and affect it or its descendants.
Everything we do has an effect far beyond the actual doing and the immediate result. Within Vedanta the concept of returning again and again to the physical existence is because we have to work out how best to 'act' without creating debt for ourselves. Here the instruction is clear; ensure that at all times in the present you act only at the best of your ability, with nobility and civility, and that you back it all up with proper attention to devotions as laid out in shloka one.
We can start paying attention now. At the level of the sanyaasi, this is no longer just a 'practice' but a way of living in the world. All actions of such a master will be without ego, without desire, without expectation… we as observers may not understand this and interpret (or misinterpret) actions of our gurus and sadhus, but it is really not our business. Ours is only to attempt emulation of such clarity and purity.
Through wisdom, become detached from future karma-s. This is a direct relationship to the preceding step. If right action is maintained, all ego/desire/expectation dropped, then we can avoid adding to the cosmic and spiritual debt known as karma. The wisdom referred to is the learning provided by scriptures and gurus who have realised, and the application of the learning through daily saadhana in order to experience for ourselves. We must seek to do without being the doer, experience without being the experiencer…
Experience and exhaust praarabdha. As has been said, praarabdha can be defind as destiny. It is much more than just 'luck of the draw' though. It is written according to how we have lived previously in countless other manifestations. Praarabdha is not history, it is the playing out of consequences - the 'reactions' - to our original actions and will carry an according weight (equal/opposite). You have heard it called sometimes have you not - that cry of "Why me??!!" or "What did I do to deserve this?!" Perhaps you have even used it yourself. Even amongst those who have no sense of 'karma' per se still tend to this. Instinctually we know that there is a cause. Very often, however, we may never come to know the why and wherefore of it. This instruction is asking that, irrespective of what praarabdha throws before us, we must accept that they are our debts and can only be borne by ourselves. We can choose to rant and rave - or take things 'on the chin', with dignity and self-acceptance, with a courage and understanding that regardless, there will be an end and 'this too shall pass away'. The Lord has seen to it that the lessons we require are provided, just as the doctor provides the prescription he considers the best for our improvement.
Thereafter, live absorbed in the bhaava 'I am Brahman'. भाव/bhaava is one of those Sanskrit words which covers a multitude of possibilities. Here it is in context of belief and commitment. One of the great sayings (vaakya-s) of Vedanta is " अहं ब्रह्मास्मि/aham Brahmaasmi" - it is the culmination of Vedantic understanding and experience. The very pinnacle of spiritual pursuit. Following in the steps of the guru, each shishya has the chance to become, also, a spiritual adept wherein the Self is realized within and without. In knowing this, in experiencing the unchanging, immutable Brahman, the seeker ought never to seek a return to the ego self he or she was prior. One who has attained this level of awareness will not go around shouting it to the world, will not brag or boast with spiritual vanity. Rather, that one will join the ranks of the teachers and set by example, spread wisdom where it is sought, heal where healing is required, correct where necessary, bear all life's ills with equanimity and, ever and always, reside in a swathe of Love.
That we close this text on the day considered the Birth Day of Jesus, for he became such a master, is fitting indeed. He was a shining example of all that has been described here and his Love knew no bounds.
Here ends the चा त्वारिंशत् सोपान/chaatvaariMshat sopaana, the forty steps of wisdom and guidance. It is a 'programme' for the serious student of Vedanta. It is, if you will, your syllabus; your map for the spiritual road. Study it well, know what is required of you and seek out the lessons which will take you there… and practice, practice, practice…
This is not an end. It is but the beginning.