Here and now: Life lessons from Adi Shankara

Life lessons from Adi Shankara's book 'You are the supreme light'

ashishm

Ashish Mehta | November 2, 2018 | Delhi


#Adi Shankara   #self help   #life lesson   #You are the supreme light  
Photo: Ashish Mehta
Photo: Ashish Mehta

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. 

Nanditha Krishna has put together a selection of them in You Are The Supreme Light (Aleph Book Company), which also has the added advantage of aesthetically pleasing production. Here are some representative gems:
 
When thoughts are absent,
the present seems eternal.
When thoughts are absent,
the Self disappears.

****
 
Reflect on the meaning of the Upanishads,
take refuge in the Truth of Brahman.
Avoid perverse arguments, but follow the
unbiased logic of revealed works.
Always be absorbed in the knowledge that 
‘I am Brahman’.
Renounce pride.
Give up totally the tendency to 
argue with the wise.
 
For those well versed with Shankara’s works, this is an edition that one can keep handy to dip in for inspiration at any time. For the uninitiated, it will serve as an excellent, reader-friendly introduction. One would only wish that if the edition had also presented the Sanskrit text it would have helped recitation, though at the cost of doubling the number of pages. The exciting series, ‘Life Lessons’, promises to be a treasure trove, with a volume on ‘Life Lessons from Moinuddin Chishti’ (Be Present in Every Moment) already published. 

The column appears in November 15, 2018 edition

Comments

 

Other News

PM flags off India’s first semi high-speed train

Indian Railways entered a new era as prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the country’s first semi high-speed train, Vande Bharat Express, from the New Delhi railway station. The new train is also seen as a success story of the NDA government’s ‘Make in India’

Estonia eyes on more e-Residents from India to open startups

Riho Kruuv, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia talks to Vishwas Dass on key issues like the importance of e-Residency programme of the Government of Estonia and why Estonia is becoming a preferred investment destination for Indian startups and budding entrepreneurs. The Ambassador says Estonia offer

Happily working away!

There’s no dearth of self-help books. They come in a multitude of single-topic and hybrid varieties: habit change, management, habit change in management, spirituality, spirituality in management...you get the drift. Happiness at Work: Mindfulness, Analysis, and Well-Being, by R Anand, adds to the li

Budget and Modi’s ‘neo middle class’ strategy for elections

Those who have gained the most from the latest budget are the ones who are going to have the most crucial impact on the Lok Sabha election results. Who are they? They are hiding in plain sight. They have come to work in metros and cities, probably in recent years. They crowd inter-state bus terminals to ta

Gandhi’s essence

For a novice reader, MK Gandhi presents a formidable challenge. The starting point is usually the autobiography, with its well-known anecdotes which most of us

Missing: The woman farmer

Land rights structurally escape women. This is a fundamental issue in understanding why women’s work as farmers is largely invisible. However, the large-scale migration of men towards pursuing other non-farm employment opportunities due to the worsening agrarian crisis has pushed more women into this

Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter