Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The science of inner investigation - a Story from the Upanishads

Philosophy is often criticized to be an esoteric affair of Men who have no active life to pursue. So much so, that the essence and meaning of religion as a study of truth about ourselves has lost its relevance in the mists of time. The matters of the spirit (so to speak) in this modern age are relegated to indulgent pastimes that are exercised only as a distraction from the daily business of living. This is a profound tragedy because religion is probably the most practical science ever practiced; and to not understand the value of this pursuit undermines the entire intellectual heritage of Mankind across ages and civilizations. By Religion, obviously, I do not refer to Institutionalized faiths , but a living, dynamic, intense inquiry into the reality of one self.

During my research the other day, I came across a wonderful story in the Vedas (the lore of Aryan tribes) that smacked of practical wisdom and investigative rigor. Here it goes :

A learned sage walks into a palace and demands to know from the King if he worships the Sun, the moon, the earth , the skies and all other natural phenomena to be the true divine principle of godhead (referred to as ’Atman’ or ‘Brahman’ in Advaita). The King politely acknowledges that he does indeed venerate all of them, but humbly points out to the sage that none of those external manifestations really points to the imperishable truth stated in the scriptures. The sage is annoyed and challenges the king to prove his point. Both of them walk to a nearby shade and find a shepherd sleeping. The king calls out his name, but the shepherd barely moved; and continued in his blissful state of sleep. The King then yells out to him, but again of no avail. He then leans forward and gently taps the shepherd on his shoulder, and the man wakes up with a start.

The king smiles pleasantly and asks the now awakened young man “is your name Jabali?’.

The Man answers in the affirmative. The king continues:” Where were you, Jabali, when I called you several times”.

The shepherd answers quite innocently “I was sleeping, my king”. And then comes the profound question and answer from the enlightened king to the sage:

“Which is the real “I” ? : is it the “I”, that was sleeping and not responding to the name Jabali, or the “I” which now attaches itself to the sound Jabali on being woken up. Tell me Oh! Great sage, which ‘I’ is the true ‘I’. This young man was cognizant of his blissful state of sleep, but was unattached to this name and form in it, and now when he wakes up, he still remains aware, but now only through the prism of identification to a particular personality. This subtle ” I’ness” that underlies the three states of his Waking, Dream and Deep sleep is truly the untainted, unmodified reality of Godhead that our scriptures refer to; all others are mere pointers to this sublime and self-evident truth, and I, Oh learned one; worship, acknowledge and dwell in that reality”…..

What an incisive, scientific and practical demonstration of a subtle intangible fact… True Mysticism begins and ends with an investigation into oneself. Sanity can only come when the mind is turned inward and faces the illusion of its separate existence. This is the true purpose of religion, not the verbiage and semantics that it has come to be…….

God Bless…..

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