Glimpses of Vedanta Part---3

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Glimpses of Vedanta
By S. N. Sastri

1. Introduction to Advaita Vedanta
2. Mind is the key to happiness
3. Bondage and Liberation are only in the Mind
4. Means To Self-realisation
5. Anatomy of Bhakti
6. Gitacharya and Gopijanavallabha
7. Vishayananda to Brahmananda
2. Mind is the key to happiness

We all know from our experience that no two persons are identical in their thoughts, their likes and dislikes, reaction to situations and so on. What is the reason for this diversity?. If we examine the composition of a human being we find that he is made up of three components. The first is the outer, physical body consisting of skin, muscles, bones, blood and the like. Then there is the mind, which term includes the intellect. The third is consciousness. The physical body is made up of the same chemicals in all human beings and so it cannot be the cause of the difference in character between one person and another. The consciousness is the same in all. We thus see that it is the mind that is the cause of diversity. According to our scriptures the mind performs four functions. These are--(1) evaluating the pros and cons of any situation, (2) ultimately coming to a decision on what is to be done, (3) storing the experiences and (4) identifying actions, thoughts, etc as one's own, in the form 'I am doing this', 'I did this', 'I am happy', 'I am sad', etc. The manner in which these functions take place can be explained by taking an illustration. I am walking along the road and I see at a distance a person whose gait seems to resemble that of a certain friend of mine, named Raman. I begin to debate whether the person I see at a distance is Raman or not. When he comes nearer and I am able to see his face clearly, I compare it with the memory of the face of Raman stored in my mind. If I find that the two tally, I decide that he is Raman and I greet him. It will be clear from this example that my decision and subsequent action are governed by the memory of the face of Raman stored in my mind. To generalise, all our reactions to various situations are governed by the impressions and experiences stored in the mind. Every action performed by us and every thought that arises in us leaves an impression on the mind. We do not of course remember all our actions and thoughts, but all of them leave impressions. These impressions are what are known in our scriptures as samskaras or vasanas. It is these that decide how we react to particular situations. If the actions and thoughts are good, they leave good impressions and these will make the person act in a manner that contributes to the good of others and ultimately to his own good. Bad actions and thoughts leave bad impressions and these will make the person act in a manner that causes harm to others and ultimately to himself also. It is because of this that we are instructed by our scriptures to always do good deeds and think good thoughts and to refrain from all evil acts and thoughts. When a person acts in a manner beneficial to others, he feels joy at having made some one else happy. Selfishness, jealousy, anger, haughtiness and other such negative attitudes and emotions arise from the evil impressions left by evil thoughts and deeds. A person who is jealous, selfish, angry or haughty cannot be happy and he himself is the person who suffers most from such evil traits. On the other hand, a person who always harbours goodwill towards others will himself be always happy. Every individual is born with the impressions, both good and bad, which he had accumulated by his actions and thoughts in past births. When he dies, the impressions gathered in his mind go with him and will be present in his mind in the next birth. When a person dies, it is only his physical body that is cremated. His mind, which is called the subtle body in the scriptures, goes to other worlds and then comes back again to this earth in another body. Whether a person is born as a human being or as an animal, bird and so on depends on the impressions of his actions and thoughts left in his mind at the time of the death of his previous body. Even those who have been born with bad impressions can, by their effort, erase those bad impressions and create good impressions by their good actions and thoughts. This is what our scriptures exhort us to do. The ultimate goal of human life is to go beyond the cycle of repeated births and deaths. The essential requisite for this is the purification of the mind. A pure mind is one which is free from cravings for worldly pleasures. The Upanishads say that the mind itself is the cause of bondage which is the root cause of all sorrow, as well as of liberation which is a state of supreme bliss. The mind becomes the cause of bondage and consequent sorrow when it is agitated by desires. The same mind, when freed of desires, is the means to liberation. The secret of happiness thus lies in ridding the mind of all desires and elevating it by fixing it on the contemplation and worship of God.

There is an episode in Chapter 34 of Skandha X of Srimad Bhagavatam which illustrates vividly how haughtiness leads to downfall and suffering. Once the cow-herds of Gokula went, along with Lord Krishna, to a place called 'Ambikavanam'. Having bathed in the Saraswati river, they worshipped Lord Siva and His consort Goddess Ambika. They passed the night on the bank of the river, praying and fasting. Suddenly a python appeared and began to devour Krishna's father Nandagopa. Hearing Nandagopa's cries the cowherds rushed to his rescue and belaboured the python with firebrands. In spite of severe beating the python did not release Nandagopa from its hold. Krishna then went and touched the python with his foot. At once the python changed into a very resplendent Vidyadhara (a semi-divine being). The Vidyadhara told Krishna "I am a Vidyadhara by name Sudarsana. Being endowed with extraordinary beauty and wealth, I was very haughty. Once, in my haughtiness, I ridiculed some great sages of the Angirasa line for their rather ugly looks. The sages cursed that I would become a python. You have now saved me from the effect of the curse". By being haughty because of his beauty he became a python which is a very repulsive creature. The lesson we have to learn from this story is that if a person is haughty because of his beautiful looks, he will be deprived of his beauty and will be born as a very ugly creature in his next birth. The story of the curse making the Vidyadhara a python is only another way of bringing out this truth. Extending this logic, it follows that if a person is haughty because of his wealth and therefore treats the poor with contempt or misuses his wealth to harm others, he will be born as a beggar in his next birth. If a person is haughty because of his learning, he will be deprived of learning and will be an illiterate person in his next birth. The lesson therefore is this. Never be haughty because of your wealth, beauty, learning or other accomplishments, but cultivate humility. Be kind and considerate to others who are less fortunate than you and do all that you can to help them.

Thus we find that the only way to get better births in future and to attain liberation ultimately is to strive hard to discard all evil traits which one is born with and to make the mind free from desires. These can be achieved only by the grace of God. The cultivation of intense devotion to God is therefore the prime requisite for the attainment of happiness.