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VEDANTIC WAY OF LIVING

Book: Swami Bhoomananda Tirth
Summary: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

Our forefathers had an intense love for knowledge. They were bent upon
discovering the most subtle and abstruse laws relating to human life and soul. To
this end they thought and thought until their thinking mind itself gave way to rip
open the mystery of existence, not merely of themselves but of the entire
creation. The Vedas, more so the Vedanta, embody the exalted inner spiritual
states reached by our ancient thinkers and the truths they perceived while
remaining in those states.

The first portion of the Vedas, called ‘Samhitas’, consist mostly of praise, hymns
in praise of the different deities. The second part of the Vedas, called the
‘Brahmanas’, contain various rituals which promise distinct rewards for their
performers. The third part of the Vedas, called the ‘Aranyakas’, embody the
meditative aspects of life. The ‘Upanishads’ or the Vedanta, represent the end of
the Vedas in two respects: first, it was revealed at the end of the Vedic period,
and secondly, the truths it contains represent the completion or finality of the
thinking of their authors.

Vedanta or Upanishads do not teach man by means of injunctions or
prohibitions, as does the ‘Karma Kanda’. On the other hand, it informs man about
some basic truths which he does not know at present; he is made to exert
himself for the realization of the Self.

Mankind is always after attaining peace, joy and contentment. To gain true
knowledge of everything possible is also their avowed ideal. The Vedic thinkers,
who too were human as we ourselves are, knew about this fact. Hence they
thought it necessary to divulge the truth about the innate divinity of man. In the
realization of the Self they found a full solution to all their mundane problems,
agitations and doubts. The knowledge of the Self gained for them is the best
fulfillment of life. It was but natural that they bequeathed their attainment to those
who were to follow them on earth. The sum total of all their teachings can be
found in the following verse from Kathopanishad [2.2.13]:

“All things in the world are ephemeral. But there is something non-ephemeral in
them all. You must search for it in them all. You must search for it in the sentient
things, not in the insentient ones. It is truly the ‘Chetana’ (consciousness),
manifest in the conscious entities. It is, though single, capable of fulfilling the

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desires of the multitude. Whoever is able to realize That, seated in himself, is
truly wise. To him alone will flow abiding peace, not to others.”

What is Life?

All the Upanishadic treatises are in the form of questioning or enquiry. For, by
that means alone can the realm of Reality be safely reached. Whatever the
starting point of the question or enquiry, all Upanishads reach the same
destination, arrive at the same Truth that is the Self within; the Brahman existing
everywhere. Although intuitive and revelatory in nature, the Upanishadic
accounts are based fully on reason and logic.

Philosophy is a science of knowledge. It is also the enquiry into the Ultimate
Truth or Reality. In the Vedanta you will find the pursuit of knowledge and
Reality, both alike. Being subjective in nature, Vedanta can suffer no change or
replacement in the march of time and civilization. That is how you find the
Vedantic philosophy as fresh today as it ever was.

By being subjective and changeless in nature, the Vedanta does not in the least
become impractical or non-beneficial. The benefits which Vedantic realization
gains for man are too obvious: peace, stability, wisdom, and contentment.

What is that subjective presence, which we call life? It is the ‘Consciousness’,
which the Vedanta calls ‘Chetana’, ‘Prajna’, etc. This ‘Chetana’ is a thing which is
neither matter nor energy. Being other than energy and matter, it is called the
‘Spirit’, or the spiritual substance. To cause knowledge and activity is its power.
The moment ‘Chetana’ ceases its operation in the body, both activity and
knowledge also cease abruptly.

Karma Yoga – The Science of Work

Yoga is a Sanskrit word. It means union. The word is also used to denote the
path or means leading to the ideal of ‘union’.

The word Yoga signifies union with the indestructible ‘subject’ in ourselves, the
union with the ‘Real’. It also connotes the path which will lead us toward this
union.

In the Gita, Krishna speaks of three paths leading to the union with the Self, with
the indestructible:

‘Dhyana’ is one. ‘Vichara’ called ‘Sankya’ is another. ‘Karma Yoga’ is the third.

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Karma means action, or better, activity. Activity of any kind and order is karma.
Karma Yoga signifies that path wherein karma itself is the medium employed for
the ‘Sadhana’.

Everyone born in this world brings with him a certain nature. It represents the
aggregate of some specific tendencies and features. Shri Krishna says, “You are
bound by your own nature, O Arjuna. So, even if, you, out of ignorance, do not
like to do certain act, you will be compelled to perform it anyway.” [Gita 18.60]

Thus, it becomes quite obvious that no one in this world can escape the hold of
‘Prakriti’ and hence the propulsion of doing karma.

Right from the time of birth until the body breathes its last, man is steeped in
karma. The karma may be external, gross or subtle, visible or invisible, or a
mixture of these.

‘Siddhi’ means fruition and ‘asiddhi’ means non-fruition. In siddhi and asiddhi,
one should learn to be equal-minded and harmonious. Such equal-ness or
harmony is really yoga, the spiritual ideal we have to realize.

You should develop a new outlook, the spiritual, or the Vedantic vision: “I am
doing karma because to be so doing is my nature. In conforming to my nature, I
find great delight. As the clouds shed rains, as the seasonal wind blows, as the
rivers of the mountains flow down to the seas, so is my nature to do karma. I
cannot but fulfill my nature, my duty. In thus fulfilling my nature, discharging my
duty, lies my contentment and perfection.”

The ‘Karma Yogi’ must use his day-to-day karmas, all of them, as the medium for
doing the ‘sadhana’.

The ‘sanga’ to the results of ‘karma’, which is at present ingrained in your being,
is the real bondage. This ‘sanga’ is based upon the feeling of identity which we
face with the world and the worldly things and enjoyments.

The ‘karma sadhaka’ pays all his attention to watch his mind and keep it sane
and free of ‘sanga’ all through his life and work. The day to day life and work
persist on one side, and Vedantic sadhana prevails on the other, like the two
sides of a coin.

There is nothing which prevents you from taking to karma yoga and attaining
liberation in this life itself. All the necessary factors to involve you in the sadhana

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are there already. Your own determination is the only factor you have to
contribute.

Bhakti Yoga – The Science of Devotion

Bhakti or devotion is a divine sentiment, which sprouts in any gentle human
mind.

If you have to gain spiritual wisdom and fulfillment through devotion, you will
have to regard it as a form of Vedantic Sadhana and then be devoted to its
pursuit.

Bhagavat is the most authoritative scripture on devotion. Suta replies to Rishis:

“The knowers say that the truth is in the nature of non-dual knowledge –
‘advayajnana’. It is this which goes by the different names: Brahman,
Parmantman, and Bhagavan.”[Bhagavat 1.2.11]

Bhakti, one form of yoga sadhana, must lead us to the non-dual knowledge, if it
has to fulfill its purpose. It must be able to purify the mind of the sadhaka and
then awaken his intellect so that he may achieve self-realization.

God is a term which we invented ourselves for denoting the source from which
this world has originated. In other words, God is a divine being, infinitely more
powerful than all the creatures in the world considered together.

“The majority of people, who are neither dispassionate nor passionate, if they
accidentally go to a spiritual or devotional assembly, where some religious or
Vedantic discourse takes place, they may adopt Bhakti Yoga and achieve
realization”. [Bhagavat 11.20.8]

God when the term is fully understood, is the indestructible and immutable Self
within you, the I in you. Hence the ultimate goal of devotion is the same as that of
the ‘karma’ and ‘jnana’ paths. The Bhagavat speaks of the ideal of devotion in
the following verse:

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“Ekanta Bhakti’ means exclusive devotion, devotion which is absolute and
sovereign. When you achieve this your ideal will be realized. You will be able to
find God in everything, at every time, in every place and in every event.

The place to see God is one’s own within. Devotion also must take me to the
indestructible ‘Chetana’ in the body, the source upon which the I subsists.

As long as you are not able to say, “I am God’s, as is everyone else in this
world”, your devotion can only be crude, rudimentary, underdeveloped.

To tread the path of devotion is really to tread the path of knowledge, to march
inward, to climb higher within yourself until you reach the ultimate abode of
oneness, non-dualness, the invisible ‘Chetana’ upon which subsists the I in you.

Remember always that man is the outcome of his understanding. He grows
along with his knowledge. Therefore, the best source of strength and correction
for you is the right knowledge.

Every moment of your life you are being carried to fulfillment irresistibly.
Everything that comes to you does so to improve, correct or alter your nature,
thereby leading you towards greater perfection. You are getting from every
quarter that which your nature deserves and needs for its march towards
perfection. This is an unfailing truth about our life and its progression.

The following verses from Bhagavat speak of the progress of devotion and its
purification effect:

“The devotees who find a natural love towards the Almighty will experience
several pleasant sensations on hearing the stories describing the greatness of
the Lord, His deeds and sports. Their hair will stand on end, face turn red, throat
get choked, thereby giving them an inexplicable delight. In such moments, they
will not hesitate to sing aloud, cry and weep profusely or even to dance openly in
ecstasy. They have some other characteristic moods too. Sometimes, they will
behave like one possessed by an evil spirit, thereby laughing, weeping, sitting
pensive, rising up and greeting people, avoiding all sense of shame and fear.
They will openly call out, ‘O Hari, O Lord of the universe, O
Narayana’.”[Bhagavat 7.7.34-35]

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“When they exult thus in supreme devotion, they start heaving and sighing
frequently, forgetting the surroundings and remaining lost in the thought of the
Lord. Their body and mind getting completely attuned to the Lord and His deeds,
all their bonds of ignorance and desires get destroyed. By means of the highest
device of devotion, they thus attain to the Lord in the end.”[Bhagavat 7.7.36]

“The communion with the Lord, who is invisible and, therefore, dwelling within
the body, gains for them freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It removes
from their mind all impurities and the ideas of difference and separation. The
knowers of truth say that the embrace with the Lord which these devotees attain
during the spiritual states of ecstasy is the same as ‘Brahma-Nirvana’. Therefore
worship O young boys the Ruler who resides in your heart.”[Bhagavat 7.7.37]

The devotee achieves purity by reciting the name of the Lord variously. The
Vedantic seeker tries to achieve the same through introspection and
contemplation of his own Self.

What you should do is to study the nature of your own mind and discover
whether the devotional path or any other is agreeable to it. If it is the Bhakti path,
adopt it and do the ‘sadhana’ on the lines of devotion wholeheartedly.

JNANA YOGA – The Science of Knowledge

‘Jnana’ is not merely an absolute path by itself leading you towards the
realization of the Self, it is also a phase which the followers of the other paths will
have necessarily to pass through before attaining fulfillment and realization.

The Karma path requires you to perform work making it a ‘sadhana’, the path of
devotion requires you to preserve the devotional attitude at all times considering
it as a ‘sadhana’, and the path of wisdom requires you to preserve wisdom
unaffected always, so that, in that very process, you will be naturally led to the
vision of Truth.

Rishi Vashishtha holds high the place of wisdom in life:

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“You have to gain access to the abode of peace and blessedness, O Rama,
yourself, by dint of your cautious effort. No body from outside, in the form of a
visible or invisible agency, will come to your rescue. The helpers, if at all, are
only two. And they are your own beautiful intellect (Sundari buddhi) and then the
trusted friend and counselor, called discrimination (Prajna).”

Krishna says in the Gita:

“A man of ‘shraddha (sincerity and devotion) attains ‘jnana’. But he should keep
his interest always and be devoted to it. He must also practice self-restraint.
Without restraint of the senses, the pursuit of jnana will be fruitless. After he
gains jnana, without much delay he will be led to transcendental peace.”[Gita
4.39]

“There is no purifying agency as great as the pursuit of wisdom”.

Ashtavakra says to Janak:

“One who thinks, ‘I am bound’ remains so. One who thinks, ‘I am free’ becomes
free indeed. ‘As one thinks, so indeed he becomes’. This proverb is true with
regard to the seeking of liberation.”[Ashtavakra Geeta 1.11]

“When the intellect becomes sharp and penetrating, your knowledge will become
deeper and more extensive, and with that the ultimate Reality will be perceived
and realized directly.”[Gita 5.16]

“Ignorance is the root cause of all wrongs. It can be undone only by its opposite,
namely knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge will make you holy and in the end
you will transcend birth and death for ever.”[Gita 5.17]

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Vashishtha says to Rama:

Suppose you plunge into the waters of ‘Satsanga’ and become refreshed; then
little do you need to perform any other purificatory acts like offering of ‘Dana’
(gifts), taking bath in holy waters, doing of ‘tapa’ (penance), performing ‘yajna’,
etc.

Bhagavat says:

Do not think that the waters are the ‘tirthas’ (purifying places) and the idols made
of clay, wood and the like are gods. If you worship them for a long time, you may
be able to achieve purity. However, the ‘sadhus’ (holy souls) purify you by seeing
them.

The ‘mahatmas’, God-realized souls, will always have only the spiritual; and
Vedantic truths to tell you. The Vedantic truths are such that they awaken you to
the truth of your innate nature, which is pure and unbound.

Surrender all that you have to Him, with an innocent mind, and then seek to know
Him and become one with Him.

Meditation and Life

The knowledge gained by the five senses is called ‘Pratyaksha’ knowledge.
‘Paroksha’ knowledge denotes inference, or the results produced by the process
of thinking.

In working out the ‘Aparoksha’ knowledge, the senses and the mind, the external
and internal instruments of perception, including the ‘buddhi’ and whatever other
knowledge-producing agency is there – all these must be at standstill: they
should not be at work at all. What perception will be had in such a state is called
‘Aparoksha’. It means direct perception. ‘Aparoksha-anubhuti’ thus denotes
direct, unprocessed and spontaneous realization of knowledge.

The effort at Vedantic Sadhana is no other than the practical attempt to go into
the mystery of consciousness and know its nature and powers. When you gain
the ‘Aparoksha-anubhuti’, you will in fact be coming face to face with the knower

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in you, with the sentient substance which dwells in your body, with the ‘Chetana’
or Consciousness.
About the Atman, Vedanta says it is ‘Sat-Chit-Ananda’. It becomes ‘Sat’ because
of its unegatability and it’s ever existingness. ‘Sat’ is that which exists all through,
unassailed by any conditions, time or place. It is that which exists independently.
‘Chit’ refers to that which beams as awareness or knowledge. While ‘Sat’ refers
to existence, ‘Chit’ refers to its revelation, or the power to reveal itself.

‘Ananda’ denotes the kind of experience that comes to one when he realizes the
‘Atman’. The experience of the Self results in a condition or effect which is
peaceful and auspicious.

The ‘vichar’ or ‘anusandhana’ must be of the Ultimate Truth. The Vedanta has
coined its own chosen phrases for the purpose, which are called ‘Mahavakyas’:
• ‘Prajnanam Brahma’ – Rig-Veda
• ‘Aham Brahmasi’ – Yajurveda
• ‘Tattvamasi’ – Samaveda
• ‘Ayamatma Brahma’ – Atharva Veda
The revolving of such mantras in the mind continuously without interruption
becomes Vedantic Meditation or ‘nididhyasana’.

Shankara says in ‘Aparoksanubuti’:

The thought ‘Brahman is myself’ is ‘sadvritti’. While the ‘sadvritti’ practice is done
by its force and intensity, the world ideas get displaced and we reach a
‘niralamba- sthiti’. This is the extremely pleasant situation known by the word
‘Dhyana’ (meditation).

When you are able to retain the ‘Brahma-vritti’ successfully without interruption,
very soon a state of ‘vritti-vismarana’ will follow. Even the ‘Brahmi-vritti’ will fall
off and a peculiar transcendental state will surge up. This is called ‘Samadhi’.

There is no reason why any human being, who wants to seek and know the truth,
his own Self, should not succeed. But you find quite a number of seekers not
succeeding in their pursuit. The reason is the gross and subtle currents flowing
beneath their mind and intellect. It is generally impossible for them to know about
and locate these currents and under-currents. The contact with a divine teacher

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and his constant tuition alone will reveal to them their own weakness and
mistakes, by the removal of which they find their way to perfection in this very
life.
The Right Way of Living

Vedanta has the aim of achieving for man the direct realization of God, which in
other words denotes the realization of one’s own Self.

Hanuman says:

There are three levels of understanding or vision that Hanuman speaks of: The
first is, ‘I am your servant, O Lord’. The second is, ‘I am part of your existence’.
The third is, ‘You and I are one’. See how clearly Hanuman has described the
practical truth and realization. This description must serve to clarify the entire
truth about the various attitudes and paths which the religious souls adopt in
order to achieve their spiritual ends.

The three broad paths namely the ‘Karma’, ‘Jnana’ and ‘Bhakti’ all have only one
ultimate end to serve for man. That end is the vision of God, the merger with the
Self within.

The sears of the past have evolved the fourfold ‘Purushartha’ with the sole object
of gaining for mankind true spiritual wisdom, illumination and fulfillment. The word
‘Purushartha’ means ‘the object of pursuit for man’. By ‘Purushartha’ therefore is
meant the thing or things we are to achieve by virtue of our deliberate effort.

The ‘Purusharthas’ are:
1. Dharma
2. Artha
3. Kama
4. Moksha
The ultimate end is the fourth Purushartha itself, namely ‘Moksha’.

The ‘Dharmas’ which will help the Vedantic student (nay all people alike) evolve
and in the end realize the Vedantic ideal, in the words of Manu:

“Ahimsa’ (non-injury), ‘Satyam’ (truthfulness), ‘Asteyam’ (non-stealing),
‘Shoucham’ (cleanliness), ‘Indriya-nigrahah’ (sense-restraint) – these are the

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common ‘Dharmas’ to be practiced by people belonging to all castes and
societies.”

Bhishma gives following maxim to Yudhishthira;

It means ‘life subsists on life’. This is the rule we find throughout the expression
of nature.

‘Ahimsa’ denotes the principle of restraining from harming or injuring others,
where harming can be avoided. We should not do to anyone what we do not
want to be done to ourselves.

‘Satyam’ implies that one should speak what is true. Always bear it in mind and
see that your works and deeds conform to it.

‘Asteyam’ denotes non-stealing. To steal the property of another is always bad.
You should also not do anything by taking away from people what is theirs, or
refusing them what is theirs legitimate right.

‘Shoucham’ denotes cleanliness. By cleanliness is meant not merely the physical
or external neatness, but also mental or internal purity too.

‘Indriya-nigrahah’ is really the measuring yard for dynamic life. Whether you are a
‘Dharma-nishtha’ or not will be judged by how far you are able to practice sense-
restraint.

The basic factor in the pursuit of a ‘Dharmic’ life is the restraint we are able to
wield over our five senses.

‘Artha’ refers to money or wealth. Our ‘Shastras’ do not, as many are inclined to
think, eschew wealth or comforts. On the other hand, they have enjoined riches
as the second item in the pursuit of ‘Dharmic’ life.

According to the view of our Ancients, there is no room for laziness on the part of
man. Everybody is asked to exert himself well enough in order that he may have
the necessary means for livelihood.

‘Kama’ means that with the riches that you have, you must procure the objects of
your desire. Money is for spending, but for spending wisely and well.

‘Moksha’ literally means release, freeing or freedom. Life throughout its course is
one of bondage. Unless we understand that this is so and then try to get released
from it, the bondage will persist ever and ever. It is the release from the previous

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three ‘Purusharthas’ as well as from everything that comes within their fold, that
the term ‘Moksha’ denotes.

By enjoining the fourth ‘Purushartha’ – Moksha, Vedanta intends to complete and
fulfill our life hundred percent. The Vedantic vision also teaches man ‘to live as
well as to leave’, to get hold of the world as also to get rid of it, to own it as well
as to disown it.

A verse from ‘Bhagavat’ summarizes the correct view about human life and the
ultimate object to be gained in it:

“At the end of several ‘janmas’ (births), somehow the human life has been
obtained. We are fortunate in this. But this fortune will have no meaning unless
we consider it our prime duty to exert earnestly getting ourselves liberated from
impermanence and attain ‘Moksha’.”

The knowledge of Self is available to man alone, and that knowledge has the
power of redeeming him from bondage and impermanence. The ‘Nihshreyas’ or
‘Moksha’ alone will be a worthy ideal for his pursuit. All other things are inferior
and should sub-serve that.

From the changing to the changeless, from ignorance to knowledge, from
bondage to liberation, from misery to happiness – this should be your watchword
always.

Summary: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

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