Life lessons from Adi Shankara's book 'You are the supreme light'
Ashish Mehta | November 2, 2018 | Delhi
The mind often goes blank – no thoughts, no sense of self. This does not last long; we ‘wake’ up and get back into the normal mode with the first-person-singular in the role of protagonist, thinking of the past or the future, planning, fantasising, imagining dialogues. Or the incessant background noise in the head, if nothing else. That blank state, the one without the weight of a separate identity of the self – isolated from the rest of the world, is at the heart of most spiritual traditions of the humankind. Be it Christian mysticism or Sufism, the difference arguably is in how one can achieve that state, and how one expresses it: the experience itself of merging one’s identity with the whole remains the same. Buddhism would call it Shunyata, with nihilistic undertones. The Hindu tradition (arguably) calls it Advaita, non-duality, with divine overtones.
This notion of Advaita – simply put, oneness with the universe – goes back to the Vedanta, that is, the Upanishads, the gist of which is the Bhagvad Gita. Adi Shankaracharya (‘the original or the first Shankaracharya’) revived or systematised it in the seventh/eighth century. He also penned scores of short verses summarising the vision of Advaita. Not only they are beautiful, the added advantage with them is that thanks to their brevity and poetry, they can be easily committed to memory and thus readily serve in the time of need.
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