Nature of reality according to Vedanta philosophy

Molecular Thoughts

Vedanta defines this world as illusion, or maya in Sanskrit. Ma means not, ya means that. Literal translation of the word maya is not that. The world we experience not that, it is an illusion. This world is as real as a dream.

When we are dreaming, our dream seems real to us. We experience the same emotions in a dream as we do in awake state. In a dream we can be happy, sad, angry, afraid. While dreaming we are creating our own reality. And in a dream the reality which we crated seems real to us. Sometimes when we wake up we might wonder if our dream actually happened, was it real? Some seconds later we become aware that it was just a dream. If we had a nightmare we are happy that it was just a dream. If it was particularly nice and pleasant dream we might be a bit sad that it was not real.

When we are awake we are also creating our own reality. The reason we are not aware that we are creating it is that somehow it seems more real, we can touch it, we can perceive with with our senses. But our senses are far from being perfect. We see the table, we touch the table and we “know” it is real. Actually, your table consists of 99% of empty space. Distance between the atomic nucleus and electrons circling around it are empty space. Distance between the atomic nucleus and electrons circling around it are much bigger than the size of electron or a nucleus, and there is nothing between them. But we still perceive it with our imperfect senses as solid matter.

Reality that we perceive in our aware state is not much more real than the reality we perceive in a dream.

Vedanta differentiate three states of awareness: awake state, dream state, and deep sleep state, a dreamless state in which we are not aware of any reality.

brainwaves1Thousands years after this awareness states were defined in Vedanta, in the beginning of XX century, researchers managed to record the oscillations of our brain activity which roughly corresponds with the awareness states defined in Vedanta. We can change our own brain waves at will. You might hear people sometimes saying “When you get angry, count to 10”. Well, it is simple advice, but it works. If you didn’t try it, try next time you are angry or upset. You will get much better results through mediation, which can markedly change the brain waves. Benefits of transcendental mediation is scientifically validated through many studies. Mantra meditation has the same or similar effects. Even walking 10 minutes a day through forest or a peaceful park might relax you and influence your brain waves, your mood, your ability to focus and handle the problems you encounter in daily life.

All this is not intended to be just a knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself. Any theory is only as valuable as it is useful. The date from Vedanta are intended to be used. There are many possible applications of those data to our lives.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember, it is maya, an illusion that you yourself created or contributed in its creation in some way. You are shaping your reality in the same way how you are creating your dream reality. After we wake up in the morning, we are aware that it wasn’t real, it was just a dream, an illusion. Wisdom of Vedanta can help us to wake up and start seeing our daily reality for what it really is – an illusion.

Being aware of the nature of reality might help in going through some unpleasant periods of life. The point is not to sit down and do nothing about bad situation you are in because it is an illusion anyway. This might be disastrous and I’m not advising you to try it. There is a funny story I once heard from a Vaishnava priest.

A guru was sitting in a village, teaching his disciples about illusory nature of reality. Atone moment a tiger entered the village and everybody ran for cover, including the guru and his disciples. After the danger was gone, one of the disciples asked the guru:

– Why did you ran away from the tiger when the tiger was just maya, an illusion?

– Well, my flight from the tiger was also an illusion – replied the guru.

In the same way how wise guru ran away from the tiger, you should also not sit and wait and do nothing if you find yourself in bad situation. But being aware of the illusory nature of reality and the fact that you somehow created it or contributed to its creation, might help you to be more composed about the whole thing and give you more space to figure out your solution and a way out of that situation.

Hope you found this data useful and I encourage you to research this further and bring your own conclusions.

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Mind and intellect according to Vedanta philosophy

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The word Vedanta is composed of Veda – knowledge, as well as the name for holy scriptures of Hinduism, and anta – the end. It means ‘the end of Veda’ and might be said to represent essence of Vedic knowledge, supreme religious philosophy and wisdom. Philosophy of Vedanta is based on later Vedic texts, hymns and writings of which Bhagavad Gita is the most well known.

In Chapter 6, Verse 6 of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna makes the following statement about the mind:

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.”

Uncontrolled mind has potential to mess up a person’s life due to following characteristics of the mind:

1. it is full of likes and dislikes
2. it has a tendency to slip into the past or the future
3. it generates endless desires
4. it develops attachment to objects and beings.

The mind comprises impulses, feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. If we are not in control of the mind, we will be controlled by the mind, having life full of endless stress.

Many people are living their lives in the past or in the future and are often faraway from present time. They are either worried about the past or anxious about the future. While preoccupying themselves with their past mistakes and loses or pondering about what will tomorrow bring and how will they survive in the future, they are missing to enjoy life in present time.

Whole our life style is a hoax, created to prepare us for something but that something never comes. We spend our lives running after something but we don’t know what that something is. We go to kindergarten which prepares us school, then we go to school which prepares us for high school, high school prepares us for university, university prepares us for work.

When we start working we are looking for promotion, one day when promotion comes or doesn’t come we dream about pension when we will finally have enough money and free time for those things we always wanted to do. And when we are finally in pension we are too sick and too old to enjoy life and we fill frustrated with our lives.

We are trying to make money and seeking higher social position. We suffer from desires and we are trying to satisfy them. Satisfying desires is impossible. Attempting to satisfy desires is like trying to put out the fire by feeding it more wood – it will just burn stronger. While satisfying desires is impossible, not satisfying them makes us angry, desperate, frustrated and stressed.

We come exhausted from work, we sit down and watch TV and brainwash our self with advertisement which are telling us that we are not good, that our clothes are not good enough, telling us we need newer and smarter smart phone, better car.   

We meet someone we think we love but we know so little about love. We get married we grow attachment for our spouse, we get children and we grow attachment for them, we buy a house and we are attached to that house. Out of attachment we start having fear of losing our dear objects and beings.

Love is not attachment. Love is understanding and sharing, it is feeling peace and harmony in the presence of our spouse. Love has nothing to do with falling in love although this falling in love is being sold to us through movies and literature as something we should strive for.

Learn to love your children like nurse in the kindergarten loves them – she is taking care of them, she is teaching them things, feeding them, making sure they are safe. But when the time comes that they move on, she lets them go. She loves them without attachment.

In short, living life while being under dictate of the mind, with all its faults, is slavery. While waiting and hoping for some better future to come, while constantly ‘preparing’ ourselves for something, we miss enjoying life. Life passes by us like water in the river is passing by the trees on its banks. We need to learn how to live.

Mind is being granted too much importance and attention. Countless therapies from psychoanalysis to all kinds of self-help practices are developed promising to improve our mind, rise our IQ, teach us how to achieve our goals and satisfy our desires, while the best thing you can do about your mind is to learn how to ignore it.

We are making great efforts to ‘improve our minds’ while totally ignoring our higher echelon of reason – intellect. One of the smartest people I knew was alcoholic. He had brilliant mind, extremely high IQ, very creative professional respected by his peers. Of course he knew drinking alcohol in excess is not doing him any good, but he was drinking himself to death. Great mind, poor intellect.

While the mind is set of impulses, feelings and emotions, intellect is thinking, reasoning, judging. When intellect guides the mind, the person is considered as wise. Intellect is not intelligence as you can see from countless examples of intelligent people doing stupid things.

Nourish and cultivate your intellect and learn how to use it. Develop your intellect by observing the world and the people around. Never accept anything for granted. Learn to observe things and make your own conclusion. Don’t blindly believe everything you are being told in school or in your church, temple or a mosque. In Vedanta Sutra it is written:

“In cases of Scripture conflicting with Perception, Scripture is not stronger. The True cannot be known through the Untrue.” 

While Veda represents holy text, revealed by supreme authority, Vedanta teaches us that even the Scripture shouldn’t be accepted we find it to be contrary to our perception, to our common sense.

Collecting data and acquiring knowledge will not develop intellect. Nothing wrong with being knowledgeable and well informed, intelligence and knowledge provides you the means to make a living, but it will not develop your intellect. To develop intellect you need to observe, question, think, reason and make judgments and conclusions for yourself. Never accept things for granted. Accept only the things that are logical and reasonable.

In living your life try to be objective, try looking things from outside and above, as impartial observer. Examine the motives of your actions. Are you acting based on your likes and dislikes? Desires? Learn to recognize chaotic impulses of the mind and stay above it, refuse to obey it. Ignore the noise which is telling you that you should be like everybody else. Do you really need the newest smart phone, is it a real need or is it created by advertisement which are everywhere around you?

Instead of setting up for yourself only material goals, try setting up for yourself an ideal of what you can be and try achieving it. Learn how to enjoy in life instead of running through it too fast to notice beauty around you.

These were few thoughts I wanted to share with you. If you liked any of it, decided it make some sense to you, I would recommend getting a book by Swami Parthasarathy or reading Swami Vivekananda’s works online. Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi is also a reading I would highly recommend.

I wish you all the best in developing your intellect with the help of Vedanta philosophy and learn how to live stress free and fulfilling life.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

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