The compassionate teacher draws first the outline of what is not the reality and then tries to suggest the nature of the reality to the student in Sri Adi Sankaracharya’s Vivekachoodamani. Theory alone is not helpful in clear understanding. The student needs to apply it and know for himself.
To realise and feel the presence of that reality what should I, the student, do? Here are the guidelines from the Acharya. The tool here is a well-controlled mind that has been rendered pure. What is a pure mind? A pure mind is a quiet mind. The activity makes the mind impure. However, it is activity that makes it pure also. What is the difference? If the activity is prompted by selfish desires, the mind acquires more seeds of desires that will sprout in future through more activities. If the activity is motivated as an offering without personal ambitions, it purifies the mind.
Having performed unselfish actions in the past for the welfare of the family, society, country or god, the mind becomes pure. With that mind, the seeker has to realise the self himself, perceiving the self through the grace of the intellect. Having seen it directly through the eye of knowledge, the seer can easily cross the ocean of existence beyond the waves of birth and death. They become accomplished in this lifetime having done what they need to do—realise the self. What’s left to be done after that is to abide in the true form of the Brahman, that which is the one big reality in all existence.
Well, when I am the unbounded infinite reality, then how did this bondage and identification with a limited body, mind and intellect happen in the first place? It is through ignorance of the self, which does not come alone. It brings in its tow birth, death and afflictions such as an arrogant ego, likes, dislikes and fear. Through this ignorance, the individual believes the temporary body to be the permanent truth. Functioning from a wrong premise, he pampers and nurtures the body with sense-objects weaving out a cocoon with invisible cords of bondage made of the threads of his thoughts and desires.
This is the nature of the body we weave around our desire and in the end get trapped in it just like the silk-worm, which worked hard to create its own encasing. However, just as the pupa works on itself through contemplation, develops wings and emerges as a butterfly, the Shastras point out the way by which we can meditate on our own true nature and develop powerful wings of wisdom to break open the shell of limitation and fly into the vastness of our own true personality.
(The writer is Sevika, Chinmaya Mission, Coimbatore (www.chinmayamission.com); email: email@example.com)