Vedanta in Daily Life
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
The Upanishads form the basis of Vedanta. Vedanta is the basic culture of India. It is the national philosophy of India. It is the Moksha Sastra or the Science of Emancipation. Absolutism is the pivot of Vedanta philosophy.
Vedanta upholds the reality of the indivisible, immanent and transcendent Spirit. It does not exclude matter. It does not exclude anything. The oneness of all existence is the message which Vedanta teaches. It has kept Hindu society alive for the past several thousand years.
Vedanta is the only bold philosophy which dares call man God, not merely the son of God, or His servant. It proclaims with emphasis that you are the immortal, all-pervading Atman, the Universal Soul or Supreme Brahman in essence, in reality. Boldness is the key-note of Vedanta. The message of Vedanta is fearlessness, soul-force and unity of consciousness.
Vedanta does not ask for converts or proselytes, but a deeper reassessment of the divine-human equation, a return to the fundamental question of every being: “What am I really ? What is my real Self ?” Vedanta proclaims: “Man, in essence, is identical with the Supreme Being.”
Vedanta denotes one’s identity with the rest of humanity. According to Vedanta, there is no stranger in this world. Everyone is related to one another in the kinship of the Spirit. In Vedanta, there is no ‘mine’ and ‘for me’; but ‘ours’ and ‘for us’; and ultimately, ‘His’ and ‘for Him’. If the Vedanta philosophy is rightly understood and acted up to, then it will obliterate all evils that emanate from factional and racial prejudices. Vedanta is no creed, no ceremony or form of worship. It is the science of right living. It is not the sole monopoly of the Hindus or the recluses. It is for all.
Vedanta has no quarrel with any religion whatsoever. It preaches universal principles. Vedanta is the only universal, eternal religion. It is a great leveler. It unites all. It gives room to all.
Vedanta encloses within its sphere all the religions of the world and is strong enough to make them all useful and enduring. Vedanta never interferes with forms. It concerns itself solely with the life of religions. The Christian need not renounce his Christianity, the Buddhist may stick to his Noble Eightfold path, the Muslim may stick to his Quran, and yet all these may follow the Vedanta and realize in practice all its high ideals and truths. Their love to their respective prophets and Bibles will become more sober, more enlightened, and more enduring. Religious animosity will vanish and the world will move on to its great end without any friction, with greater dignity and more goodwill among its denizens.
Vedanta means no slavery. It gives freedom to all. It never condemns any man as beyond hope, never looks upon anyone as accused, but takes all mankind within its fold. Vedanta is extremely catholic and liberal in its outlook. Vedanta can offer to the modern society a common faith, a common body of principles, and a common moral discipline. It is highly scientific in outlook and has a real appeal to men and women of today.
There is no philosophy so bold and sublime as the philosophy of the Vedanta. It is Vedanta alone that can eradicate totally human sufferings and can bring everlasting peace and happiness. Even a little understanding and a little practice of Vedanta can raise a man to magnanimous heights of Brahmanhood or God-consciousness and remove all sorts of fears, worries and anxieties of this mundane life.
Some ignorant people only say that Vedanta preaches immorality, hatred and pessimism. This is a very sad mistake. Vedanta does not preach either immorality or even indifference to morality. Vedanta wants you to destroy Moha or selfish love and passion for the body, and develop pure, disinterested cosmic love or the magnanimous divine Love. Vedanta never preaches pessimism, but it preaches the pinnacle of optimism. Licentiousness is mistaken for a life of expansion. If a man can eat anything in any hotel in any part of the world, if he can move socially with any man or woman, that does not mean he is a Vedantin. There is much tall talk of Vedanta nowadays. People talk of unity, oneness and equality, but fight out for little, useless things. They are full of jealousy and hatred. I cannot imagine this. I am simply stunned.
I believe in practical Vedanta. I believe in solid spiritual practices. I believe in thorough overhauling of worldly nature, worldliness of various sorts.
You must be a practical Vedantin. You should live in the spirit of Vedanta. Mere theorizing and lecturing is only intellectual gymnastics and lingual warfare. This will not suffice. What is the use of reading too many books on Vedanta like Chit-Sukhi, Khandana Khanda Khadyam, etc. ? You must radiate love to one and all. The spirit of Vedanta must be ingrained in your cells, tissues, veins, nerves and bones. It must become part and parcel of your nature. You must think of unity, speak of unity and act in unity.
The sun, the Ganga, the flowers, the sandal trees, the fruit-bearing trees, the cows – all teach practical Vedanta to the world. They live for serving the humanity in a disinterested spirit. The sun radiates its light alike over a cottage of a peasant and a palace of a king. The cool refreshing waters of the Ganga are drunk by all. The flowers waft their fragrance to all without expecting anything. The sandal tree wafts its aroma even to the man who cuts it with an axe. All fruit-bearing trees behave in the same manner. O selfish, ignorant man ! Learn lessons from these practical Vedantins and become wise.
Vedanta does not preach a doctrine of negation of human effort. It wants you to have a changed mental attitude. It demands a changed angle of vision. Till now, the world was everything. Hereafter, the Reality alone is everything.
Once there lived two friends, Ram and Gopal. They were both philosophers. By analysis and self-enquiry, Ram learned to see the Glory of the Supreme Self reflected in and through all the universe. But Gopal continued to remain a theoretical philosopher, condemning the universe as an illusion and dream containing nothing but evil and vice.
One day, after a long time, Ram called on his friend. Gopal discussed, for a long time, as usual, the evil in this universe, and in the end asked Ram what present he had brought for his friend. Ram, after thinking a while, produced a broken piece of mirror from his pocket and handing it over to Gopal, said, “This is my little and humble present. It will help you to understand your own beauty and charm, which you cannot otherwise see.”
Gopal learnt a lesson, and from that moment began to visualize and understand the Glory of the Supreme Self reflected in all the universe. Nothing is useless in this world. The non-self exists to reflect and glorify the Self. Otherwise how can you know the existence of the Self ? Verily, the non-self is the mirror that truly reflects the Self for us to cognize.
So, too, evil is the mirror for good. The presence of sages and saints is easily cognized amidst an assembly of ignorant men. Learn to see the good reflected by the evil, and say, “Evil exists to remind me of good, the perishable exists to remind me of the Imperishable,” and so on.
Truly, this universe is a mirror that reminds us of God. Learn not to condemn it as an illusion and dream, but to utilize it to feel the presence of God.
Learn to discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent. Behold the Self in all beings, in all objects. Share what you have, physical, mental, moral or spiritual, with all. Serve the Self in all. Feel when you serve others, that you are serving your own Self. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Melt all illusory differences. Remove all barriers that separate man from man. Mix with all. Embrace all. Destroy the sex-idea and body-idea by constantly thinking on the Self or the sexless, bodiless Atman. Fix the mind on the Self when you work. This is practical Vedanta. This is the essence of the teachings of the Upanishads and sages of yore. This is real, eternal life in Atman. Put these things in practice in the daily battle of life. You will shine as dynamic Yogin or Jivanmukta. There is no doubt of this.