The Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras together are called the Prasthana Traya. Prasthana means leaving and Traya means three. While the Vedas are books about living well in this world, the Prasthana Traya is all about leaving well. To experience happiness while living in this world, we need to be a master of both.
There are many texts that are woven around the Upanishads to make us understand them better and Vivekachoodamani is one of them. What is the goal of life? What are the impediments on the path to reach the goal? How to overcome them? What should be done to reach that goal? Who are the great masters who have reached that? How does it feel to get there? You can find many answers for these questions as we study the elaborate text which has 581 verses. It begins with prostrations at the feet of Sri Govinda Bhagavadpada.
Sri Sankaracharya says among the living beings, it is very rare to get a human birth. Rarer still is to have the quality of dispassion for the objects of the world rejecting them with a powerful masculine shove. Greater is to have a knowledge of what the scriptures say and also live a life on the lines shown by the Vedas, gaining mastery over such a lifestyle. Again greater still is to be able to distinguish between what is I and what is not me. Having an experience of the Self and remaining established in that are even rarer.
This state of liberation is not got without the performance of meritorious actions in a hundred crore lifetimes. If anyone has got to reading this far, then you fall under the last category of people who have arrived at this great level of auspiciousness to be able to even mention the name—Vedanta. Three things in this life are rare and we get them only due to the blessings of the divine: a human birth, a desire to become free of the cycle of birth and death, and proximity to great saints and sages. The person is indeed blessed if they have any or all of these.
But—the teacher laments—having somehow got this rare birth, the required manliness to discard the world of anxieties, sentiments and emotional shackles, and having reached the shores of learning in the Vedas, if there is someone who does not strive to be free of the bondage of the cycle of life, such a person holds on to all forms of untruth and is equal to one who commits suicide.
There can be no greater fool than one who is lackadaisical in knowing one’s own self having got the necessary human equipment required for that effort.