Shri Shankara Acharya’s Vakyavritti Verse 7
The disciple said; “What is the jiva (the individualised consciousness)? What is the highest Self? How is the identity of the two to be accepted? In what way do the holy texts such as ’That Thou Art’ explain this?”
It has been established once for all that the cause of suffering of any kind, whether physical or mental or psychic, is nescience, a want of true understanding of the nature of the Self and of the identity of the microcosmic and macrocosmic aspects of consciousness. This is the cardinal doctrine of Vedanta.
Some will say: “Is not the performance of good and benevolent, deeds enough? Is not the life of prayer, devotion and renunciation sufficient to terminate all man’s troubles? Is not the Heaven above this earth, where the faithful go, the only place of eternal rest, peace and happiness?” The reply is: “No, no.'”
These states may give a temporary freedom from limitations, but they cannot give absolute freedom. The pleasures and delights of the paradise of Allah and the Christian Heaven are all limitations: they cannot be eternal because they are subject to achievement. The whole question is, are sufferings real? If they are, then their elimination is impossible, just as the real nature of fire is heat and you cannot have fire without heat. If they are not real, then they must be imaginary and illusory. In this case the only remedy is knowledge of truth.
The Vedantic position is most logical and is based on experience. The main source of knowledge is the statement in the holy Shruti ‘That Thou Art’. The expression looks un-academic, but its real meaning cannot be understood unless the mind is purged of all earthly desires and uplifted by benevolence, devotion and prayer. These practices are preparatory to the understanding of ‘That Thou Art’.