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[Based on Chapter 10: Nataka Deepa Prakaranam of Panchadashi of Sri Vidyaranya Swami]
Course material written and dedicated to Swami Paramarthananda by Raja Subramaniyan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Module J Essence of Life
Unit 01: Understanding Life
Number of Sessions: 5 (J01 – J05) Number of Lessons: 4
On completion of this unit, the student will be able to (a) Understand life (b) Understand the cause of suffering leading to liberation.
Notes to the teacher: (Ref 10.01 and 10.26 of the original text)
1. Give the list of the examples centering on the dance performance and how they are compared to our life. 2. What is bondage? 3. What is liberation? 4. What are the three dimensions from which the truth is explained by the Holy Scriptures?
Lesson 1: Understanding life Life can be compared to a dance performance as detailed below: A dancer is dancing on the stage.
She initially starts the dance to the tune played by the accompanying musical instruments. There is a huge audience watching the dance performance. As the time progresses, the dancer starts dancing to suit the mood of the audience and the accompanying instruments start supporting the dancer. The dance director who has organized and directing the dance is also watching the dance performance. He takes the credit for the good performance of the dancer and feels bad if the performance is bad. A bright light which is fixed in the auditorium illumines the director, dancer, accompanying instrumentalists and the audience. While there is a continuous change in the stage, dancer, accompanying instruments and the audiences, the only unchanging object is the light which illumines the entire show. Life is compared to this dance performance as follows: Auditorium: Stage Settings: Dancer: Dance movement: Mind of the dancer: Accompanying Instruments: Accompanying Instrumentalists: Audiences: Light that illumines the Auditorium: A dance item: Universe Our physical body Our mind Thoughts in our mind Our intelligence Our gross sense organs Our subtle sense organs Sense objects of the world Our real self Our life
A dance item depicted by the dancer is an interaction of all changing objects of the universe. It is an entertainment and does not affect the light in any way. Similarly, our real self is not affected by the interaction of our body/mind complex with the rest of the creation. Life is a mere entertainment.
Without the light there is no dance program. Without the self there is no universe. The existence of the light does not depend on the show. It illumines the presence and the absence of the show. Similarly, our real self is complete with joy and it is ever-fulfilled. It is non dual, changeless. It does not depend on life for existence nor for entertainment. Self is the only reality. Using its power of illusion, it appears as multiple living beings and as the inert universe. The apparent differences between the living beings are due to the difference in the illusory form and name. Example: Milk-sweet is sold in different forms with different names. There is no difference in the content. Children are attracted to the name and form and do not know that everything is one and the same milk-sweet. Due to ignorance human beings are attracted to the name and form of the body/ world and do not understand that in the essence everyone/ everything is ONE. As a result, they continue their efforts of performing the dance program. The performance happens endlessly from birth to death and the birth/death cycle continues eternally until knowledge of the truth is gained. Through sincere efforts in improving the dance performance, individuals gain matured mind. Then they do the performance for the sake of God and not for the audience. When they do that, they are endowed with the enough intelligence to inquire into the truth. When such a desire to know the truth becomes serious enough, they seek competent teachers teaching various religious scriptures of the world. The inquiry will finally lead them to the truth that life is an illusion of light and sound. When the truth is known, they start identifying themselves with the only reality, namely the ONE and disregard the creation, which is an illusion. This is liberation. Until one is liberated, each person is deluded to think that he is the director of the dance program responsible for the performance of the dancer, his mind. They feel happy when the performance is good and feel miserable when the performance is bad. This is suffering or bondage to the objects of the world. Thus, bondage is to think of the non-divisible ONE as multiple objects of the world and to think that the SELF, which is always joyful, as the embodiment of suffering. Perceiving the duality and the resultant suffering is bondage.
Liberation is to be our selves. This is possible by learning our real selves through the Holy Scriptures, taught by a competent teacher. Our true nature is joyfulness. Joy is filled to the brim and there is nothing else other than joy. The only cause of our suffering is our ignorance of this truth. The only way we can gain liberation is to conduct inquiry and find out the truth of our real nature with the guidance of competent teachers in line with the Holy Scriptures. Thus, both bondage and liberation are also par of the illusion. We are not really bound to sense objects of the world. Therefore, the liberation from the bondage is also an illusion. Example: A child wakes up from sleep, crying, ‘my hands are tied’. A shrewd mother may not explain to the child that it is part of the dream and the hands are not really tied. Instead, she may ‘untie’ the hands of the child with appropriate action and ‘free’ the child from bondage. Unfortunately, it is not possible for our teacher to free us in a similar way. It is necessary that we need to understand the illusory nature of bondage and gain liberation.
Lesson 2: Our real nature
The Holy Scriptures describe our real self from three different dimensions. Dimension 1: Who is the human being? Dimension 2: What are all his main instruments that come with him? Dimension 3: Description of the activities done by him using these instruments. The one who thinks that he is an independent entity separate from the world is the human being. The body/mind complex is the main set of instruments, which includes the five sense organs and five action organs that come with a human being. It is the nature of the body/mind complex to be in action all the time. They will be undergoing constant change. The one, who thinks that he is the body/mind complex, naturally assumes the ownership for all its ceaseless actions. He says, ‘I have done this, I am doing this and I will do this’ and he claims to be the ‘doer’ of all the actions. He is not aware that he is not capable of thinking or acting. The movement of thoughts in his mind and the internal/ external movement of his body including what he talks and hears are all part of the illusory light and sound show. Example: In a boxing championship, the spectators identify themselves with either one of the boxers and go through emotional ups and downs as if they are inside the ring, fighting the opponent. The two boxers are fighting with each other and the spectator is a mere witness. However, the spectator reacts as if he is inside the ring and fighting for the cup. The winning or losing of his hero is seen as his own victory/ loss. Similarly, the entire universe is a light and sound show. In ignorance, we identify ourselves with a small physical body and claim independent existence. This is the cause of all suffering. Thus, the ‘doer’ is the ‘human being’. The ‘doer’ is an imaginary status assumed by the ego of the individual just as the director of the dance assumes ownership for the performance of the dancer. The consciousness illumines the doer, the instruments of the doer and the actions. The consciousness is a mere witness and does not create or induce the events. This timeless consciousness, which is all pervading, is our real nature.
Lesson 3: Two fold actions
The creation is an illusion of light and sound. A small part of this illusion assumes the role of ‘doer’ doing various ‘actions’ using the instrument, ‘body/mind complex’. Such actions can be divided into physical action and mental action. Physical actions are subdivided into internal actions and external actions. Mental actions are also subdivided into internal actions and external actions. Internal Physical Action This is driven without the involvement of the mind. Examples of such internal physical actions are blood circulation, digestion, breathing etc. From the time of conception, such actions continue to happen until death. Even after death, such actions do not stop completely. The physical body starts deteriorating and disintegrating until it merges back into the five elements of the nature. Even birth is a name given by us, as if the movement has just then started. If we analyze deeply that the cycle of birth and death is the part of the bigger cycle involving our entire universe. The rain bearing cloud, seeds the ground with the vitality that enters the male bodies through food. The conception and formation of a human cell is just part of this giant movement. Internal Mental Action All thoughts of ‘I’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’ constitute Internal Mental Action. External Mental Action All thoughts about the external objects/persons of the world are called External Mental Action. External Physical Action This is further subdivided as Inflow Actions and Outflow Actions. Inflow Actions are carried out by our five sense organs namely, ear, skin, eye, tasting tongue and nose. Outflow Actions are carried out by our five action organs namely, hands, legs, organs of procreation, organs of digestion and speaking tongue.
The universe is filled up of various sense objects. The External Physical Inflow Actions using the five sense organs perceive a particular aspect of the sense object and communicate the same to our mind. This causes External Mental Action of flow of thoughts in the mind. Appropriate responses to the inputs are decided by the mind and sent out as signals to External Physical Outflow actions. Thus, the External Mental Action is caused by the external sense organs that are present within the reach of our sense organs. The External Physical Outflow Actions are induced by the External Mental Action. Thus, the universe causes the External Physical Inflow Action which in turn causes the External Mental Action, which triggers the External Physical Outflow Action. Internal Mental Action, namely the thoughts of ‘I’, ‘My’, and ‘Mine’ have no role to play in the above cycle. The Internal Mental Actions are called the functions of the ego. The ego has no role to play in all the apparent actions. Actions are part of the illusion and ego is claiming a small portion of such mass movement by labeling it as ‘my actions’. We do not think. Thoughts come to us. We do not respond to our thoughts. The choices that we seem to make are part of the illusion. Some of the thoughts induce physical action and the cycle continues without any role played by the ego. Ego thoughts are the thoughts that we are this limited body/mind complex. Just as the External Thoughts give the representation of the external objects, Internal Thoughts paint a picture of the imaginary non-existent ‘doer’. When a rose flower is presented to us, our sense organs report the fact to our mind. Then the thought of the rose creates a thought-rose in our mind. In response to this, ‘I like this rose’ or ‘I want this rose’ or ‘why was this rose presented to me’ appear in our mind in line with our past accumulation of our preferences towards rose. Accordingly, the mind initiates thoughts like, ‘give a kiss to the rose’ or ‘through it into the dustbin’ which gets converted into physical action. Ego has no role in any of these cycles but assumes that it is the organizer of the whole show. Just as the fixed light illumines the director, dancer / supporting orchestra and the audience, the consciousness illumines the ‘doer’, the action by the body/mind complex and the external sense objects.
Life is so intelligent as to make the mind believe that it is responsible for the actions and the ego suffers for the shortfall of the action by the mind. The difficulty in understanding this part is due to the fact that one has to use the very same mind as the instrument and as the object on which the instrument is to be used. Therefore, people who do not have sufficient level of intelligence cannot understand the teachings of our Holy Scriptures. As a result, they will be assuming the status of the dancer. All the thoughts in the mind are like the dance movements of the dancer. If the movements are nice and elegant, the dance director feels proud. Else he feels bad that the dancer is not dancing properly and he needs to do something to improve the performance. However, the fact remains, that the dancer is dancing to the mood of the audience. Although, in theory the organizer of the event is the director, the dancer switches her allegiance to the audience, even before the beginning of the dance. As a result the audiences determine the quality of dance. Similarly, the objects of the world determine the response of our mind and the ego has no role in it. Without this knowledge, people suffer. The accompanying orchestra also supports the dancer who is dancing to the mood of the audience. Similarly, the sense/action organs function according to the sense objects of the world. The ego has no role in it. If the dancer is mature, we can expect a quality dance even if some section of the audience wants her to dance to their poor taste. Similarly, if the mind is mature, the sense organs will not have the power to pull it towards unwanted and unwarranted action. The light continues to illumine the auditorium during the break between the dance items. Even after completion of the entire program the light continues to illumine even though there is no one in the auditorium. Similarly, the consciousness illumines the body/mind complex during deep sleep when the ego is totally absent. Birth and death of the physical body is illumined by the consciousness. Creation and dissolution of the universe is also illumined by the consciousness.
Lesson 4: Oneness of the universe
We need to understand the oneness of the universe and its illusory nature. Universe is inert. The ONE on which the universe is superimposed is the conscious principle. We are aware that we are conscious. Therefore, we are the ONE. It is not possible to understand the all pervasiveness of the ONE or the eternal nature of ONE because even ‘space’ and ‘time’ are part of the illusion. Example: An archeologist found a coin belonging to the period 2008 BC It is not right to expect the coin to bear the year ‘2008 BC’, since in 2008 BC it is not known that Christ will be born 2000 years hence. Similarly, Direct Knowledge of ONE does not mean that we will perceive ONE in the same way we perceive other objects of the universe. The Holy Scriptures and competent teachers do not reveal us the ONE. They merely tell us that we cannot understand ONE. Our search to find the truth of ONE will end when we realize that we are the ONE. To learn that there is nothing to learn we need the help of the Holy Scriptures and competent teachers. Example: In an airport, before boarding the plane one has to identify his baggage. This identification process does not bring about a new suitcase. It merely requires one to make a claim, “This is mine”, pointing at a suitcase which belongs to him all the time. Similarly, the Holy Scriptures and competent teachers do not create any new entity within us. They merely help us to claim, “I am ONE” after realizing that we were ONE all the time. If the dance movement turns out to be bad, the dancer will blame the audience. Similarly, if our mind has anger, sorrow and such negative thought patterns, the mind will blame the sense objects of the universe. It is natural that the sense objects determine the thought patterns. The dancer will continue to impress the audience by her dancing skills. Similarly, our mind will continue to entertain thoughts that are focused on satisfying the pull of the sense objects. The dancer will continue to dance to the mood of the audience. Similarly, it is natural that our mind continues to sway in tune with the objects that we experience. It is not possible nor expected that we stop the movement of thoughts in our mind. The dance of the universe is unstoppable and eternal. The thought pattern in our mind is the part of this universal dance.
Instead of attempting to stop or modify the dance by controlling the dancer one should resign the post of the director and assume the role of the witness. The truth is that the dancer never had any intention to dance according to the wishes of the director. The director is deluded to think that the dance movements of the dancer reflect his direction. In reality, a light and sound show is happening and we are the changeless conscious principle which merely supports the everchanging illusion. If we identify ourselves with the dancer, then we will swing between positive and negative emotions as determined by the audience. If we identify ourselves with our true position, the lamp that illumines the entire show, we can enjoy the show and be always joyful. Example: The words ‘day’ and ‘night’ do not have any meaning if we are living in the sun. Similarly, for a wise person who has identified himself with the sun, the words ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ have no meaning. Life is an entertainment. The sense objects will continue to dictate the physical and mental action. I remain unaffected as I am the joyful witnessing consciousness. I will not own up the dance performance but my role is limited to illumining the dance. There is a break/interval between each dance item. The stage setting is changed for the next performance. The very same dancer comes back in a different costume. Similarly, there is a break/ interval between death and birth. The physical body is changed after every death. The very same mind comes back in the new body and the dance continues. This is the eternal dance of all the living beings until they attain liberation through gaining knowledge. The creation is the eternal dance of God. There is nothing to change or control in this dance. My physical body and mind are part of this dance. I am not the dancer. I am the witness of this illusion. Example: If there is replica of a tiger in my room, I will not be able to live peacefully unless I understand that it is a model. As long as I think that it is a real tiger, I will not be able to sleep. Similarly, as long as we do not know that the world is an illusion, we will continue to suffer. When we realize the real nature of the world, life will become joyful. There is nothing more to learn and nothing more to do. One shall enjoy life, which is a well integrated part of the illusory movement. One does not have any duties or responsibilities. Changes are part of the illusion and we are the changeless joyful witnessing consciousness.
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