What is adwait ?
May we contemplate upon the following three filters:
To address this question, we need to first explore our likes and dislikes. Unless we learn to observe our mind’s likes and dislikes, our perception and reasoning remains partial or incomplete. Related to this is the idea of “doership” - the concept that we are the ones who do the liking or disliking. This belief leads us further into dualistic thinking, reinforcing the belief that “I” and the world outside of “me” are separate and distinct. Thus we fail to realize who we truly are, and develop a false sense of identity. These are some subject matters that we need to study in detail as we attempt to discuss the primary question: What is adwait?
Both likes and dislikes leave impressions on our mind. What we like and dislike lead us to certain kinds of behavior and observation that is limited. As an example, let us say that I like the ocean and not the mountains. Hence the world I perceive will be only ocean oriented and not mountain oriented. The beauty to be found in the mountains and my potential relationship with the mountain world will not only be lost, but remain unknown. Hence my understanding of the world will be only partial and not whole.
At this point in time, it would be worthwhile to mention that yoga is whole and regular life is partial. Wholesomeness is totality. Wholeness is not about ‘this versus that.’ When we talk about liking, we imply disliking. If I do not like certain things, my observation will be ‘partial’ toward things I like and the part of the world I dislike will be rejected and not enter my experience. I will have a hard time, even superficially, understanding ‘my’ inseparability with the universe ‘outside of me.’ Oneness will not be realized.
Duality is always in the mind. Hence in the dual mind of likes and dislikes there cannot be non-duality, or adwait. Adwait cannot be concieved. Then why worry about the question- what is adwait ?
Adwait is non-duality. We and the world outside are nothing but the manifestation of Consciousness. From this angle we and the world are fundamentally one and the same. They are not two separate entities. When that is revealed, we can better understand the states of our mind which has likes and dislikes. We can now see the mind working and know that these states of preferences are just that- workings of the mind. We then understand that these thoughts are not reality itself; in fact no thought is reality. Every thought is merely a reflection of reality within our mind.
With this awareness, although there may still be thoughts of liking and disliking, we will now not be affected because we will realize that these ideas of liking and disliking are simply our thoughts, not reality. Our mind will be calm and ‘ripple free.’ That is, we will be beyond vrutti - ripples, or agitations.
In this light we can appreciate what the scriptures say: that we are Consciousness. We are not our fluctuating mind. We are Àtmà. We are spirit. Our nature is Sat-Chit-Ànanda (reality-consciousness-bliss).
Be aware that Ànanda is not happiness, a temporary experience of mind. Happiness is only partial, because the moment we talk of happiness existing, we assume that its opposite- unhappiness- also exists. Now we can better understand how the presence of opposite mental states reveal duality in our thoughts or the mind.
Two weeks ago, we were talking about the ‘state of happening.’ We mentioned happiness and unhappiness. We feel happy when things happen as we desire them. Likewise we are happy when certain things we don’t like, don’t happen. We experience unhappiness when our expectations are not met or when unwanted results occur.
Here is a very simple social example. A bride wishes that her mother-in-law would not come to visit her house. If she does not come, the bride is happy. But if the mother-in-law does visit, she is unhappy. On the other hand the bride wishes her own mother visits and is happy if she does visit. The expected and desired result is met. However, if she is expecting her mother to visit and for some reason the mother is unable to come, she is now unhappy. The bride’s happiness and unhappiness are conditional.
Many married and young girls talk about their mothers-in-law and feel disturbed by them. Another girl, who is equally disturbed by the same thing, supports her by agreeing that the mother-in-law is in some sense to blame for her unhappiness. She may say, “Your mother-in-law is terrible and so is mine.” This is the kind of support the bride likes because the thing that she chooses to believe (“My mother-in-law should not visit and my mother-in-law is bad.”) is supported by the friend. She expected that her friend would support her and she did. As a result the bride likes her friend and the bride’s and the friend’s opinions of their mothers-in-law is reinforced further. But if the bride’s friend were not to support her opinion, the bride would be disappointed and unhappy.
The bride’s conditions for happiness depend on the following expectations being met/results being favorable: • Mother-in-law does not come to visit. • Bride’s mother comes to visit. • Friend agrees with her about her mother-in-law.
The bride’s conditions for unhappiness are when the following unfavorable events result : • Mother-in-law comes to visit. • Bride’s mother does not come to visit. • Bride’s friend does not support her opinion.
This is important.
We all have likes and dislikes. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in liking and disliking, but we must carefully observe our likes and dislikes. We must first be aware of them before we can hope to overcome their lasting effects on us. We must be aware that anytime our personality is formed with bundles of likes and dislikes, the disturbance does not lie outside of us. The potential for disturbance lies with us and within us.
Literally an epidemic of likes and dislikes pervades our lives. Many enter us stealthily and unconsciously. It is easy to intellectually talk about ‘doership’ and say, ‘I know that I am not the doer.’ But in order to reach a state of calm and unaffectedness we have to study our likes and dislikes and how their lasting impressions on our mind create ripples/disturbances or, vrutti. We have to understand after all who is ‘doing’ the liking and disliking?
Liking and disliking easily and always lead us to form opinions about others right away. We become judgmental. Our communication is impressing meaning, they form impressions or engravings in our mind. This kind of impression is called vàsanà in Sanskrit. Even Divinity filtered through the vàsanà. It is filtered through impressions which were left on our mind.
Anything that is done with intention (the mind is involved) becomes karma. Once the karmas are formed, at some point in time, actions will follow. You see how it is. Karmas lead to actions and actions lead to karmas. Impressions left on the mind through both thought and action are vãsana, the latent energy which creates ripples or vruttis on the mind take us away from yoga (wholeness or unity). Here we are now touching upon the second sutra of Patanjali’s yoga discussing yogaschittavrutti Nirodha.
Some translate Nirodha as ‘blocking the vruttis.’ But ‘blocking’ is also an action! When we intentionally block something, we are creating more karma, and we are back into our circle of karma- vãsanã- vrutti. However, when we are talking of exhausting karma and can see that one karma leads us to another and also reinforces ‘doership,’ then we might ask, “So what needs to be done?” The answer is: Nothing needs to be done. Just observe the state of the mind. Simply observing our thoughts without entertaining or believing in them, will lead to an awareness of accumulated karmas. Our accumulated vruttis will surface where they can then be observed. So to reiterate, just observe the states of mind and do not entertain any thought.
When you are driving on a freeway, paying no attention to cars in the neighboring lane, they simply pass by. It is like being in a kind of meditative state. It is not per se meditation- it is dhãranã, a concentration technique wherein we focus on one or two elements. While driving we are only focussing on perhaps, the cars in front and our speed. With the mind, we are simply observing the running of thoughts within, which we will realize is zooming almost constantly in multiple directions. Just observe and let them pass.
Our mind had two characteristics:
1. Vikshepa – meaning disturbance – running around in different directions. Right now, we are having satsang. You may be listening but you may not be listening. Your mind may be somewhere else. You may be thinking, “It is 6:30 and I have to rush to work.” I don’t think any of you are drinking coffee nor having breakfast while listening. That is a common social trend – whereby you are neither completely listening nor are you having your breakfast. Entertaining any thought will keep us in disturbance. This disturbance is not necessarily unpleasant. This disturbance is simply the ripples which occur with any mental activity.
2. Laya – meaning the state of sleep - is the other characteristic of the mind. In this case the mind is not disturbed, but there is no awareness.
To experience our nature, which is sat, truth, the mind must be still. Only then are we in the state of awareness, chit – the consciousness. Pure Consciousness is easy to talk about but extremely hard, but not impossible, to understand with our minds.
Thus, our minds are either in a state of mental disturbance, vikshepa or sleep/unaware, laya.
Metaphorically I can say, “My mind is like a river with constantly running waves and ripples while chitta, our consciousness self, is like the vast and calm ocean connected with Divine Consciousness and in Unity with it. Once the waves dissolve, the river merges into the ocean and becomes calm like it. Nothing but a still, unmoving mass of water.” Chitta, our consciousness, is nothing but peace and bliss. But only when the mind is still can we experience adwait. To conclude, my friends, in order to learn these lessons, let us begin with keeping notes all week of our likes and dislikes. Let us continue observing our mind which must precede any understanding of adwait.