The highly revered Sringeri Pitham in India, as is well-known to all, is the sterling center devoutly upholding, preserving, maintaining and propagating the Shankara Advaita. The unbroken succession of the Pontiffs right from the time Shankara established the Matha to date has many a jIvanmukta in its line embellishing the holy precincts of the Ashram. Their exemplary lives illustrate the way one attains liberation while in life (jIvanmukti) and provide answers to many of the doubts a seeker may have in his/her quest to freedom from the bondage in samsAra. Continue reading
The fear most commonly experienced is the thought that I will end with the death of my physical body. Such a thought equating the ending of the “I” with the ending of the gross body indicates clearly the persisting misidentification of “I” with the body. It is the separate self which feels that it will disappear with the disappearance of the body. The cure for it is the recognition of the fact that the true “I” that I am, as Advaita teaches, is neither born nor will die; “I” is eternal, ageless, and imperishable (Bhagavad-Gita II-20). One who has really understood the Advaitic message abides as the true “I.” ‘To abide as the true I’ means to be knowingly as that immortal and changeless Awareness and not to mistake oneself to be the body and the mind which are transient and perishable. Therefore, disciplining the body through a drill of practices (as done in skill development like car-driving or carpentry) or control of the mind through repeat exercises (as required for computer coding or mathematics) can hardly be called abidance as the true “I.” Conscientiously feeling the difference between the phrases ‘I am the body’ and ‘I am aware of the body’ and experientially realizing that difference will help to firm up the understanding.
Fear can be caused by a perceived threat which could be either from within the body-mind or from a source external to the body. The source of fear itself and consequently the type of fear can be either real or imaginary. We shall, however, not consider the issues related to the nature of the source causing the fear in this essay. We shall treat fear as a ‘signaling mechanism.’ Viewed thus, ‘fear’ includes all its other manifestations and variations like anger, hatred, disgust, anxiety, revenge etc. The signal itself appears as tightening of muscles, fastness of breath, heaviness in the heart area, slowness of digestive processes, dilation of pupils of the eye, contortion in the facial muscles, perspiration and so on. Depending on the intensity of the threat, the flux of thoughts may alter and even the sense of a ‘separate self’ may disappear.
A point to be remembered is that, though all such reactions are commonly attributed to the source, the perceived source itself is not the cause. It is in the way one’s body-mind are programmed to react. Suppose you sweat on mistakenly seeing a rope as a snake in semi-darkness. The unreal snake in the rope has actually nothing to do with the way your body has reacted. Continue reading
“I understand the Advaita teaching that everything is One only without a second, but I am always afraid of dogs and monkeys which are common in my place. Moreover, I also have a fear of snakes etc. as I live in a forest area.
Everything is brahman and therefore, ‘fear’ is also brahman. Though my mind is convinced by the logic of Advaita, why do I suffer from various fears?”
If there is a perception of fear, it automatically implies that there is a ‘me’ as the ‘subject,’ the finite perceiver and there is the ‘other,’ an object, separated from ‘me.’ (For this analysis, we define an ‘object’ as anything that is perceived. Hence ‘fear’ is also an object). This in turn implies that I ignored my ‘Dimensionlessness’ (anantatva) and assumed finiteness to myself.
It is true that on the full understanding of the Oneness of “Whatever-That-IS,” there is no scope for any sort of ‘fear.’ After all, if all is One, and there is no second, where and who is the other to be afraid of?
We have a recent real-life example for this in the 35th Pontiff of Sringeri, Shri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swami. He found a big cobra snake coiled around his neck when he was meditating in a remote forest area. He told his Successor: Continue reading
Most people (or at least those who visit this website!) will be aware that the dates for Shankara’s birth and death are a trifle hazy. It is generally assumed that he lived around the ninth century A.D. and had a fairly short life, dying at around the age of 32. Fewer people will know, however, that one of the principal Maths – namely that at Sringeri – actually has his date of birth as 44 BCE. And 509–477 BCE are the dates based on records from other Maths!
In fact, there are endless discussions in the academic world over details such as these. The sort of argument that is used takes a quotation from some writing attributed to Shankara, in which another person, place or quotation is used. If the date of that cited material is known, then it can be concluded that Shankara must have been living at a time later than this. (Such arguments enable the BCE dates to be discounted.) Unfortunately, in most cases, the dates of the cited person or place are not known either! Basically, Indians in the past have not been particularly good at recording their historical events. Plus, enlightened sages are not in the slightest bit interested in having their name associated with any recorded words or in having anyone record their biographies. Continue reading