Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Approach to Conduct

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

The Bhagavad Gita emphasises the importance and relevance of karma - acting in the world - as a means toward a spiritual end. Shri Adi Shankaraachaarya contributed texts to the great Sanskrit library which seek to enhance all saadhakas' efforts in karma. In all of his writing, it comes across that every act, every task, ought to be taken with only the Higher in the forefront of one's mind. Our most significant action in life is to see the Real and the UnReal - that all is a grand illusion and we are all, in fact, That from which it All arises.

If the Gita is the handbook of 'why' we might seek to live a divine life, then Shankara-ji's विवेकचूडामणि / Vivekachoodaamani is the handbook of 'how' to live a divine life as a true follower of Vedantic philosophy. By developing the quality of discrimination, a power solely accorded to the human-being, can one distinguish between the eternal and the temporal, which in turn opens the gateway to peace and happiness. Vivekachoodaamani, literally translated as the 'Crest Jewel of Discrimination' is a compendium of 580 verses on the ways to know, understand and reach Brahman, the Reality in us. It is in the form of a dialogue between the student and the Teacher, with the latter guiding the student along the spiritual path. Bondage is caused by a lack of enquiry and ceases only by making an investigation. If we turn to differentiate Self from the non-Self, if we shift our attention from the world of names and forms to their substratum Brahman, then we can arrive at the final goal quickly.

In short, Shri Shankara's 'motto' is "ywa Îi:q twa ïi:q /yathaa dRshti tathaa sRshti" (as the vision, so the world appears to us).

In studying this text, we learn how to be 'sadshishyaaH' - proper students. At school and university, we learn how to learn (if we are paying attention!) so that we can apply this throughout life to further our knowledge and experience. The Vivekachoodaamani starts out by making it clear that this is not a path for the faint-hearted, the half-hearted or those seeking the 'quick fix'. He pulls no punches in the very beginning. Following the invocation/mangala charana, he gives in point-form his position on who makes a proper student…
i) For all living creatures, human birth is indeed rare;
ii) much more difficult it is to attain full manhood;
iii) rarer than this is a Sattvic attitude in life.
iv) Even after gaining all these rare chances, to have steadfastness on the path of spiritual activity as explained in Vedic literature is yet rarer;
v) much more so to have a correct knowledge of the deep significances of the scriptures is rare.
vi) Discrimination between the real and the unreal,
vii) personal experience of spiritual glory and ultimately to get fully established in the living consciousness that the Self in me is the Self in all,
viii) – these come only later on and culminate in one’s liberation.
ix) This kind of perfect freedom cannot be had without earned merits of a hundred crores of lives lived intelligently.

In that last pada, the role of the karmic cycle is hinted. We come back as many times as it requires to get it right.

Okay, so even though the Vivekachoodaamani is considered a prakarana grantha, it is at the top end of the scale. Is there not one which cuts it down a little more, into something we can fully relate to in daily saadhana?

Yes. He wrote the SadaachaaraH, 'Good Conduct'. It looks specifically at how we might act within each day, as serious students. He admonishes those who, although right-intentioned, have failed themselves by not identifying correct action versus the wrong action. The deeds themselves speak volumes about our state of mind and demonstrating where we stand spiritually/philosophically. We are made aware of the import of words such as honesty, integrity and goodness.

It is the SadaachaaraH which we will now take up for study on Text-days. If you are able, please purchase your own copy of the book.

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Hari OM
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