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

How Antyodaya Saral is simplifying everyday life in Haryana

From obtaining an electricity connection to a driver`s licence, ration card, or old-age allowance, delivery of government schemes and services is an aspect of governance that impacts citizens at various points throughout their lives. The Haryana state government provides over 600 such schemes and services.

A blueprint of India’s economic future: From a former RBI governor

From Dependence to Self-Reliance: Mapping India’s Rise as a Global Superpower By Bimal Jalan Rupa Publications, 184 pages, Rs 695 Bimal Jalan, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has been one of our finest commentators on econom

Carbon neutrality: distant dream or a possible future?

While many countries have been chasing to reach the carbon neutral status, only a few seem to be living up to their pledges as of now. The famous ’Paris Agreement’ of 2015 was glorified and celebrated that finally 196 countries have united with an intent to mitigate and reduce the greenhouse ga

Agnipath: benefits and challenges on the path ahead

The government this week announced the Tour of Duty or `Agnipath` scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces. Under this scheme new soldiers will be recruited only for four years. This radical and far-reaching scheme has attracted mixed reactions from various quarters. While some officials

Connecting credit card with UPI: What it means for you

UPI has become an integral part of our daily lives now. We use it to buy groceries, we use it to send money to friends and family, we use it to purchase tickets, book shows, pay the cab driver, and a whole host of other things due to the ease and availability of such a platform at our fingertips. The best

Gandhi’s letters to his youngest son also hold his aspirations for nation

Scorching Love: Letters from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to his son, Devadas By Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Tridip Suhrud Oxford University Press, 528 page, Rs 1495 Gandhi’s era happened to be an era when letter-writing was a primary mode of communica

Visionary Talk: Sanjay Pandey, Mumbai Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter