This article is from the book Awake! Realise Your Divinity!.
Radiant Atman! This week we will observe the jayanti of Adi Sankaracharya, one of the greatest of Self-realised souls and philosophers this world of ours has produced. Leaving home, in a spirit of renunciation and aspiration to realise the Reality, at the tender age of eight years, he completed an unbelievable mission in the span of just a few years, passing away in his 32nd year. During that period he did what is known as digvijaya (conquest of the quarters), carrying the banner of Advaita Vedanta, the supreme philosophy of absolute monism, into the four corners of India and overcoming all lesser schools of philosophy through his convincing, irrefutable arguments. His incredible work remains dynamically living, active and ever progressive even to this day, more than 1200 years after he propounded his doctrine.
The quintessence of Advaita Vedanta is to affirm the truth and reality of your essential, eternal, divine identity and to resolutely reject the error of thinking of yourself as a finite human creature having a name and form, beginning and end, and subject to changes such as birth, death, old age, disease, decay, pain, sorrow, suffering, etc. Resolutely rejecting this error and simultaneously affirming your eternal, unchangeable divine identity is the centre of Advaita Vedanta sadhana. They call it affirming and rejecting, pushtikarana and nirakarana—neti, neti.
Sankara’s most popular work, Vivekachudamani, is a call to discrimination between the Self and non-Self–atma-anatma viveka. Atma is sat (existence absolute). Anatma is appearance only, temporary in time, limited in space, perishable; it is kshara purusha (perishable being). Atma is akshara purusha (imperishable being)–ajo nityah sasvato’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire (Unborn, eternal, changeless and ancient, the Self is not killed when the body is killed). Thus the Vivekachudamani is a discourse, a treatise and a sadhana on discrimination between the Self and the non-Self.
And a second work of his, Atma Bodha, is a light upon what the Self is. As you discriminate between the Self and the non-Self, you get a good knowledge of what the non-Self is, so you can reject it; you will not be deluded by it. You can free yourself from the veil of delusion by knowing the nature of anatman. And then, to be rooted in the Reality, to be fixed in it firmly, to be able to think, reflect and meditate upon it and to awaken the correct awareness within your consciousness, a thorough study of what the Self is is of great importance and value. To that end, Atma Bodha can be the way that God can gradually answer your prayer, “tamasoma jyotir gamaya” and “dhiyo yo nah prachodayat” (“From darkness lead me unto light” and “May He illumine our intellects”).
To avoid that which is wrong, we have to get a knowledge of what wrong is; and to pursue and practice that which is right, we have the need to have a knowledge and a grasp of what right is, of what Reality and Truth is. Thus both the negative and positive and positive aspects of Vedantic admonition are of equal importance in making the mind aware of its error and to make the intellect grasp the truth.
When Brahman is the reality to be attained, why unnecessarily know about the world, prapancha, samsara? The answer is that because you want to free yourself from the delusion of the world, you must know the tricks of this deluding appearance. Indeed, you must know everything about it, because it comes in numerous subtle ways.
We think the world is outside us, but, by and large, the world or prapancha or samsara is within us. We have to understand that. What is it within us that makes us regard prapancha to be real and makes us move towards it, get attached to it, get bound by it? What is it within us? That has to be rooted out, eradicated first. Thus the study of avidya or maya within is the key to freeing ourselves from delusion and rising from darkness to light.
Gurudev again and again reiterated: “Thou art immortal Soul. Thou art not this body nor this mind. They are upadhis, limiting adjuncts temporarily added on to you. They are there as part of your lesser personality, your earth consciousness, but you are also there far beyond them, transcending them, a divine personality, a supra-human spiritual reality, untouched by time and space, not bothered by pain, sorrow and suffering.”
This, then, is to be heard, reflected upon and meditated upon. May you direct all your attention to the practice of this truth which shall make you free. For it is this truth that arouses in us our kinship with the eternal, universal Reality, paramatman. May the grace of the Lord grant you success in this sadhana of being what you really are and of resisting the pull of the lower mind to make you imagine that you are something other than this Reality.
Constantly you have to reject the attempts of the mind and its age-old, inveterate tendencies to keep itself tied down to a lower level of ignorance and mistaken identity. It should be given no quarter. By the strength of your will power, your positive, awakened consciousness and your resolute and determined sankalpa to attain realisation in this very body, you must keep this process up. You must shine with an effulgent inner awareness of your own essential, immortal and imperishable divine identity. Your interior should be a mass of effulgence, of jnana prakasa. There should be a state of jnana bodha within, a state of wakefulness within–no slumber. For this you must pray, and for this you must practise.
May this week be permeated by the spirit of Jagat Guru Adi Sankaracharya, the Advaita Acharya, and may it have the effect of successfully lifting up your consciousness from the present, ordinary, humdrum human level of earth consciousness into a lofty, sublime higher spiritual level of a divine spiritual consciousness!