The Jayanthi celebrations of the great seer and philosopher who re-established Advaita Vedanta—Sri Adi Sankaracharya—is being observed on April 20. It takes great compassion and tireless effort to do what Sankaracharya did by way of clearing the cobwebs in the minds of people. Yet, but for the few organisations that understand the immensity of his work, the humungous work done by the Acharya needs greater appreciation than what it has got.
In the Atma Bodha, the Acharya says that eternal happiness and peace of mind that does not change from time to time is not achieved by doing some action. If I say that I am doing yoga asanas and pranayama and I feel peaceful, the peace will last only so long as the effect of the action lasts. If I feel peaceful going to a hotel, a movie theatre or even a pilgrimage, the effect of that action will last only up to some time.Why is this so? Sankaracharya says that action is not an enemy of ignorance. It is rather hand in hand with ignorance. Ignorance means, “I don’t know who I truly am.” Who am I in reality? I am existence, consciousness and bliss. However, only when someone reminds me of this, I seem to understand. Most of the time, I function without this thought.
If I do not know my real nature, I imagine something to be myself. The common imagination we all have is: “This body, mind and intellect is me.” Owing to this thought, we constantly engage in activities to make the body, mind or intellect happy. The three aspects of our personality constitute this one thought called ignorance. It is a collection of cells, molecules and particulate matter that are temporarily bound together for a period of 100 or less or more years. Throughout that period, we function with this knowledge that this bound personality is me.
When others think of us, they function with this thought and when we think of others too, we function with this thought.This is the way of nature and hence this ignorance is common to all of us. When we are living our life with this strong impression that this temporary reality of body, mind and intellect is the actual reality, we keep doing actions constantly to keep ourselves happy.The task of Vedanta is to give that knowledge even while we are living. Constant practice of that knowledge—knowing which our real nature will alone remove ignorance like the sunshine removes darkness—makes our mind dissolve in it and that alone can bring everlasting peace.