Children, Advaita (non-duality) is the foundation of spiritual life, which aims to take us beyond all senses of difference. This is to be practised every moment in life, and not expressed through words alone. Merely talking about non-duality is, perhaps, the greatest calamity that can occur in spirituality. Unfortunately, such people are a majority today. When that is the case, one is merely like a tape-recorder or a parrot that has been trained to repeat words. One can buy Vedantic texts in shops. There are those who read them, and then go around proclaiming, “I am Brahman,” although there has been no weakening of negative tendencies such as lust and anger in them.
Once, a son told Amma, “Amma, I am a Vedantin.”
Amma did not reply. He spoke again. “I am not this body, but the Self. Therefore, I am not affected by any action.” Amma remained silent.
Then, that son loudly proclaimed, “Aham Brahmadmi (I am Brahman)” twice or thrice. Even then, Amma did not say anything. After a brief silence, the man started loudly chanting “Shivoham (I am Shiva)” a few times. Amma kept quiet. It was then that he asked, “Amma, you haven’t said anything so far.”
“Son, you’re ‘Brahma’, aren’t you? Then what is Amma to say?”
When Amma said that, he replied, “But, Amma, none of the negative tendencies like anger, aversion and desire have left me.”
Such is today’s Vedanta. One does not become a Vedantin merely by studying Vedantic scriptures. Their content must become the very outlook of one’s life. Vedantic study is good, but one must contemplate its principles properly, and through meditation, they must percolate into the depths of the heart. They must be practised in life. Through this practice, one should be able to transcend the limitations and weaknesses of the mind.
Our scriptures speak of the third eye. Many are waiting for it to open between the eyebrows. That will not happen. The third eye should open within. It is the state of mind wherein distinctions of ‘I’ and ‘you’ are removed even while our two eyes are open. This is the real Vedantic experience. It is this Advaitic state that has been described as Sri Parameshwaran’s (Lord Shiva’s) third eye.
Vedanta that is not practised is akin to writing ‘honey’ on a piece of paper and licking it in order to taste sweetness. Knowledge is good, but only when expressed in life is its benefit experienced both by ourselves and by society. Amma is not criticising or ridiculing students of Vedanta. Scriptural study is undoubtedly good. It is necessary, too. Advaita is the supreme truth and the foundation of everything.
However, it must be practised in daily life as well. Only when we live by its principles can we progress without flagging, no matter what the circumstance. Practical Vedanta is performing action with equanimity and compassion while living in the world. When our left hand hurts, our right hand caresses it because both are ‘mine’. In the same manner, we should love and serve others, feeling their pain as our own.
Even after seeing the pain and sorrow of people, merely saying, “I am the Self. I am beyond all this,” instead of trying to console and help them, is not Advaita. Such people are neither Vedantins nor religious. Any Vedantic study or religious belief is meaningless unless it moves one to console the distressed, to wipe away their tears, and, forgetting oneself, to offer oneself as their support and shelter.
The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian