One What?

Neem Karoli Baba, my first guru and inspiration on the spiritual path, famously said, “Sub ek,” which means ‘All one.’  I, as perhaps many of us, who heard and contemplated the phrase throughout the years, had my own concept of what that phrase meant.

Many drops, one ocean; many petals, one flower; many sunrays, one sun; many parts, one whole.

It was not until I encountered the teachings of Vedanta that I came to understand what Maharaji in fact most likely meant by ‘sub ek.’

From the perspective of the teachings of Vedanta, sub ek, does not mean many drops one ocean, what it means is the truth of the drops and the truth of the ocean is one alone.  One water.  The reality of the drops and the reality of the ocean is water.

It means that in reality there are not many separate things that actually exist.  There is only one thing that really and truly exists, upon which everything else depends for its apparent existence, and Tat Tvam Asi, You are That.

So what is this That, this one thing, that everything is and you are?

What is the one common denominator in the world of name and form?

Isness, existence.  In Sanskrit satyam.

Think about it.  Do you ever in your entire experience not exist?

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita:  “There was never a time I did not exist, neither you, nor these kings.  Nor will any of us cease to exist in the future.”

(Chapter 2, verse 12)

Things—objects—which exist and are subject to coming and going in terms of time and space—come and go in existence itself.  That existence, which is only one and never ceases, that existence you are.

The recognition of one’s very being as that existence is called ‘jnanam’ or ‘self-knowledge.’   You are That right now, but take your Thatness to be a product of the body/mind, and it isn’t.

Is there ever a time you do not exist?  What is your experience?  You always are.

“Always I am (sat)

Always I shine (chit)

Never at any time am I not beloved to myself (ananda)

Therefore it is established that I am that One alone,

The meaning of the word satchitananda”

Advaita Makaranda (The Nectar of Nonduality) Verse 2

 

The Karma Yoga Attitude is One of Worship

The other night I saw a film titled ‘One Track Heart.’ It is the story of the evolution of the kirtan singer, Krishna Das, from hippie, to seeker, to devotee of the Indian saint, Neem Karoli Baba, to lost soul, to family man, to drug addict; and then back to devotee and kirtan singer again. It is very much the story of redemption, a theme with which so many of us resonate.

After the movie Ram Dass gave a beautiful and eloquent talk about his own relationship with his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Ram Dass indicated that it is Maharaji whose messenger he is. 

Ram Dass’s talk reminded me of the teaching of Karma Yoga that Lord Krishna gives to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

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Truth versus Truth or Apples versus Oranges

The other night I had dinner with a young friend.  She is someone whom I would describe as a sincere spiritual seeker.

She isn’t familiar with the traditional teachings of Advaita/Vedanta.  She asked me a lot of questions about my life and journey, and I began to speak about the importance of a teaching which uses a methodology, versus satsang teachers who may or may not have recognized the truth, but who do not have methodology to use when they teach.

When I tried to explain to her that the value of Advaita/Vedanta is that it has a very clear teaching methodology—a way of pointing to the truth of one’s being that works for the student—right away and much to my surprise I found myself engaged in an argument.  What I was saying sounded to her like the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church, the religion in which she was raised.  She took my words to mean, ‘My way is the only way to the truth, and everything else is false.’ Continue reading