This world has no independent existence

Meditation – a verse of Shri Shankaracharya:

“I am bliss and truth and enlightenment (that is to say ‘I am Brahman’  . Let us always reflect thus. This world, a conglomeration of different atoms and principles, is mithya. Mithya means that it has no independent existence. I am Brahman , truth, the imperishable” .

This is a statement of the highest truth, the naked truth, the undeniable, uncontradictable truth, the only truth. And those who thus reflect, they become the truth embodied in this verse. In Shri Shankara’s philosophy, thought means an instrument which reveals, and if our thought is what is given here, it will reveal to us the true nature of the Self, and when the true nature of our Self is revealed to us, then we shall know for certain in our intuitive experience that there is no cause whatsoever for fear, for grief, for anxiety, and there is no need to search for bliss because the seeker is the sought. This is our first meditation today. OM.

As soon as you think of a mountain, you think of something made of stones or earth rising very high above the surface of the earth. We think of trees, we think of the slopes on which streams of water play. We think of the clouds coming and going over the high top of the mountain. All these thoughts are contained in one thought, or in one word and that is “mountain”. When we think of an elephant, we think of a huge four-footed animal which has two shining tusks, which has a long nose, which has a rope-like tail. Then we know what thoughts the word “mountain” or the word “elephant” give rise to in our hearts.

When we say “I” does this word give rise to any thoughts at all? “I, Aham”, to an ordinary man it means his body, fat or thin, yellow, white or olive-complexioned, clean-shaven or with hair growing on the face and so forth, the body. But it is erroneous. The word “I” does not mean the body, because we say “my body”. A little boy who was a student was one day found melancholy and off-colour in the class. The teacher asked him “My son, how are you?” He said in Hindi: “Shastriji, my body today is not well”. Then, body being a possession of the “I”, cannot be the “I”. I possess this robe, but you cannot say ” I am the robe”. So it is with the house and a dog and so on.

Why should I be identified with the body? No. To a Plato or an Aristotle or to a Spinoza the word “I” means the mind. In that short but very difficult work called “De Anima”, Aristotle exposes his idea of the soul. Now all the attributes of the soul which Aristotle speaks of are the attributes of the mind and not of the soul. Why? We say “My mind is tired, my mind is dull, my mind is very sharp, my mind is pugnacious, is amorous”. What is that thing which says “my mind”, which is the possessor of the mind and says “my mind”?

Two things are clear: the body cannot be the “I”, nor can the mind be the “I”. That is very clear. Is there anything in the personality of man other than the body and the mind? Think of it: Is there anything? The body is revealed by the mind.

If the mind is put out of action, as in the case of a blow or anaesthesia or deep sleep or in some cases of hysteria, there is no body consciousness. The body is revealed by the mind. Is there anything which reveals the mind? Is there anything? Yes. It is the Self which reveals the mind. Why? How do we know? The body is revealed by the mind, and the mind (now note this word) is not self-luminous, is not self-evident. The mind needs something, some light, some principle, to reveal it. In the state of deep sleep the mind is not revealed, but there is something which is self-revealed even in the state of deep sleep, even in the state of deep sleep, which is the witness of the state of deep sleep and forgetfulness of everything else. That is the Self which is self-luminous, and no other object in the world is self-luminous. No other object in the world is self-luminous.

You will say “What about the sun”? It is you who reveal the sun by thinking of it or looking at it. There was a time when there was no sun, but this self-revealed “I” persists. The absence of this self-revealed “I” cannot be imagined. Sit down and imagine there is no fire, no water, no sky, no stars. Can you imagine there is no “I”, no Self? No. If you imagine there is no Self, ask yourself, who is the imaginer? Therefore the Self is self-revealed, self-luminous.

Now when we say the word “I”, going back to the original illustrations of the mountain and the elephant, what idea now should you have of yourself when you see the word “I”? It is not the body, not the mind. First, it is self-evident; it needs no instrument of light or knowledge to reveal it. It is easy and logical to understand. What idea should it reveal to us? This: “I am bliss, I am Truth, I am enlightenment, I am Brahman”.

If I am Brahman, then what is this prapancha, this sansara, ever-changing world? According to Bergson it is not changing but nothing but change; it has no independent existence. “Verily I am Brahman, I. am Truth. ” If the word ” I” does not denote this meaning and instead denotes “I am the body and the mind”, it is a great error. How shall we get rid of it? By meditating and reflecting on this: “I am Brahman”. Of course the ultimate factor in unveiling the Self is the grace of God, but it is in this way that we reveal our own true nature. Om. Does any question arise out of this very plain statement? I wait, is there any doubt?

Question: The Self seems also to be perceived by the mind?
Answer: Why do you think so?

Question: It seems to me that as I hold the truth in the mind, I perceive the Self.
Answer: You affirm this truth through your mind, because the error that the Self is the mind and the body exists in the mind. In order to negate the error in the mind you give this idea to the mind. But the Self is not revealed by the mind because when the mind is absent, the Self still functions. The mind is subject to mutations but the Self is not. The mind is finite, comes and goes, is subject to evolution. All this cannot be said of the Self. Therefore the mind does not perceive the Self. The “Kena Upanishad” (1.6.) says: “That which the mind cannot think of, but by whose power the mind thinks, know that to be the Self”.)

We shall soon be dispersing for about a month, and we shall meet again, God willing. What shall we do? Let us live as yogis, that is to say, let us end the illusion of duality somehow, anyhow. When I say this one phrase “Let us end the illusion of duality”, then in this statement our holy Acharya has posited the highest morality in the simplest way. Any theory which we enounce must have a reference to morality (dharma) , right conduct in society in relation to our fellow human beings. It is not a derivation from the original Latin “morality”, which is a word meaning “custom”. It does not depend on custom. It is something inherent, ingrained in the mind of man, what Kant calls an a priori factor.

To brush away the pompous error of David Hume, Kant gave the a priori factor of the mind. Where does morality get its support from? From some book, from the tablets Moses brought? To a certain extent, but the main support is that the basis of morality is the elimination of the error of duality; to live in unity is the highest morality. A thief steals what he knows does not belong to him. A fashionable young man was going to a dance. He put on his shoes and took his father’s turban and polished his shoes with it, because the shoes were “his” and the turban was “his father’s”. He would never have used his hat nor his silk handkerchief, but he used his father’s turban. Why? Duality. Therefore morality derives its support from the feeling of unity, of non-duality. When we say “let us end the error of duality”, we mean that we give support to the truest and highest morality.

When we end duality we have a vision; all ignorance ends. “Vision” is a Platonic word; he first used it. It means “revelation of something real which had hitherto existed but was not known or perceived”, particularly in the abstract world. What is that vision? It is: “I am ananda, I am truth, I am enlightenment”.

How shall we do it? Three principles we ought to practise

(1) viveka, discrimination
(2) vairagya, and
(3) vichara, cogitation, ratiocination.

The philosophy of Shri Shankara is primarily based on the highest reason because nowhere is the word “vichara” given so much prominence as in his philosophy. These three are to be practised in society. But man, though a social unit, has something which belongs entirely to him alone and that is revealed when he is in solitude and privacy. How to spend our moments of solitude and privacy? Whether one does good or not will not arise when you are sitting alone in your study, but only with other people. That moment is to be utilised in devotion to God, bhakti. Devotion to Him is abstract, in the form of svadhyaya or study, in the form of sending your blessings to all who are suffering in the world. These are the three things which, brethren, you must practise in order to end the illusion of duality and have a vision of non-duality or the true nature of the Self.


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