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


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On Conduct

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

We now explore the Sri Adi Shankara text, "SadaachaaraH". To obtain your own copy, click here.

Advaita Vedanta is a philosophy which can require a great deal of one on the intellectual level. Any philosophy, though, is only 'worth its salt' if it is applied to daily living. Thus, in various texts, we find pointers as to how we might apply Vedanta. Not least in the Bhagavad Gita. Also, in the Vedas are found the various social conventions and rituals which are expected of those who would undertake 'right conduct'.

Ultimately, though, the actions prescribed in those texts are only as meaningful as the awareness which accompanies them. An act is, by itself, inert. It cannot take place without the prompt of the Consciousness. Action, therefore, arises from the mind. Mind, remember, has four parts according to the teachings. The antaH-karana; ahamkaara (ego), manas (reactive mind), buddhi (analytical mind) and chitta (consciousness/spirit). From the chitta, that part which connects us to the Universal Self and has the memory of our Truth, comes the vaasanas; our 'personality' driven by the accumulation of our past actions. From the seeds of our vaasanas arise desires and needs which, if the buddhi is working well, get filtered according to their urgency, importance, priority. All too frequently, the buddhi gets bypassed and the more dominant manas takes ahold of the burgeoning idea, and it is here that the signals are given for action. How those actions are carried out will demonstrate the nature of our ego-self.

Consciousness has no part in the quality or quantity of our actions. It is merely there as the observer, the holder of the prompts and the consequences, the results. We may call actions as thoughtless, indifferent, half-hearted, distracted, mechanical, focused, kind, cruel and so forth, but these relate to the process within the individual personality, and not the Consciousness.

The actions which appear to us as cold, mechanical, selfish, et cetera, can seem devoid of some essence - asaara. Those actions which ignite a reaction of lightness within us, which bring a smile to our faces, or warm our hearts can be said to hold that elusive essence - saara. The essence we speak of here is made up of Truth, Goodness and Appropriateness. Sat is the Sanskrit word which encompasses these descriptions of the essence of action. Action, or conduct, is termed as aachaara. Thus sadaachaaraH is 'rightful actions' - a collection of actions equates to 'conduct'. Therefore, Sri Adi Shankara wished to give pointers as to sadaachaaraH for those who genuinely seek to walk the path of the Divine Life.

Why the need? Guru-ji, Swami Tejomayananda has said, "if our actions are not according to our values, then gradually our values fall to suit our actions." We have all experienced this at some level. An obvious example is the one of saying one rises at five in the morning to perform saadhana. It may be the case. Then comes the day when it slips to six… or later. There may be a valid reason for that one occasion, and we can correct ourselves the following day. However, it can have an allure and, if we are not alert, we might think to have just one more longer sleep. Before we know it the later time has become our standard. We start to compromise on our meditation or prayer time so that we are not late for work or school. Compromise may be good for relationships with others, but for our relationship with the Higher Purpose, it can be a hurdle, even an enemy.

It is in the dharma shaastra that we find the guide to adding value to mundane daily activity through forming a meaningful daily plan (saadhana). Make our daily actions (diina charyaaH) as if they were an offering at puja, always in service. Shankara-ji takes this concept and teaches us how to make our daily routine and life not just meaningful and inspiring, but a means to reach the Supreme.

The very least that is expected is that we be humane. Only then can we rightly claim to be a human being. The SadaachaaraH text is designed to make of us, 'humane-beings'. The Guru urges us from being ordinary and doing uninspired things to first become good and do meaningful things; thereafter, we are shown the path of becoming extraordinary and divine, even in our daily living. As the vision, so the world appears to us. In this text, we are shown how to look upon the world and all actions with a Vedantic, non-dual, vision.

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Hari OM
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