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

On a personal note: Javed Jaffrey

After his much-appreciated debut in Meri Jung in 1985, Javed Jaffrey inspired a new generation of dancers. He then turned from dance to comedy. The versatile actor constantly changes his styles and his live, film, TV and radio appearances always promise novelty and surprise. In 2014 he joined the Aam A

Allegations against CJI: Inquiry will strengthen the independence of the judiciary

Yes, we must stand rock solid with the judiciary and the judges. We must protect the independence of the judiciary too. What does this mean in the present context of a very serious charge of sexual harassment levelled by a former employee of the court against the CJI?  We are told that there is a larg

“Managing data is challenging”

The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) is a society set up by the railways ministry in July 1986 to provide IT related services to the Indian Railways. CRIS deals in a gamut of functions, like passenger ticketing, freight operations, train dispatching and control, crew management, e-procurement,

A boost to those who need it most

What are 600 million people? Almost twice the population of the US. What are 500 million people? About three-fourth of the population of Europe. Why are we talking about these numbers? Well, because as per a study by Sandhya Krishnan and Neeraj Hatekar (‘Rise of New Middle Class in India and Its

Expanding Eureka!

Abright yellow van with figures of children playing with a whirligig, a Newton’s cradle, a magnetic compass rolls into the Government Higher Primary School in Kittaganahalli, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Students in the playground leave what they are doing and mill about it in excitement. For they

The spark in the classroom

Not many children dream of starting an idyllic school of their own when they grow up. But Ramji Raghavan, founder of the Agastya International Foundation – which fosters the creative learning of science in stude



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter