There are those who posit the Universe is real and God is not, viz.; “there is no such thing as a soul”, blah, blah, blah. Such persons are firmly centred on their experience, that is, the experience delivered by the senses, the karmendriyas. See, hear, touch, taste, smell, like this. They are ignorant of the other senses, the jnanendriyas, the internal senses of knowledge. There is much to be known, by which, all else is known, as Vasishtha hints.
When the mind is at rest – quiescence – we have the capacity to experience who we truly are. When the mind is at rest, we might say ‘neti, neti‘(not this, not this) to all that phenomena that threatens to impinge upon us from the exterior. When the mind is at rest, and the time is ripe, that which is may emerge and reveal our true selves.
It is true to say there are as many forms of spirituality as there are people; each and every person’s spiritual practice and interior discipline is different. Here, the Sage advises Rama to make friends with four elements of interior discipline and exterior associations. All spiritual progress is the fruit of concentration.
We are asked about our journey through life and how we might become wise. While we may feel that some things last forever (they do), some things change, and some things remain eternal, everlasting. We look to the difference and human transformation.
Many declare that the new-born child is tabula rasa, a blank slate, conditioned and shaped by family, friends and culture. The environment that newborn grows up in is purported to have significant influence in shaping the person and character. Here, Sage Vasishtha clarifies that good and bad tendencies are carried over with the mind from a previous birth.
When we are born, we bring our destiny with us. Some in the sciences say we are born a blank slate tabula rasa in the mind, the intellect, the skills and capacity. The enquiries, the discoveries of the sages and saints teach otherwise, as Sage Vasishtha teaches the young Rama. There is much to reflect upon, and belief must be unshaken if we are to have victory.
Sankalpa (Sanskrit) is commonly thought of as willpower, determinations, and desires to take certain actions. These are in fact modifications of consciousness which continue to accompany the body until all desire ceases.
Ramji asks ‘What is purushartha?”. Vasishtha replies that purushartha is the wealth obtained from personal self discipline and practice. Purushartha refers to the great goals of life. One of which is realisation of the Atma (soul) within. This is explored in commentary on these questions.
In his extraordinary book Guru and Disciple, Swami Abhishiktananda gives a vivid and magnificent account of his meeting with Sri Gnanananda Giri, an Advaitic sage whom he met at his ashram in Tamil Nadu. He regarded this encounter as one of the high points of his life in India, for it was at that time that he recognised Sri Gnanananda as his guru. He spoke of his retreat with him as days of grace, “days of peace and fulfilment … when one was conscious of living at a spiritual depth in which the whole world of outward appearance has been left behind and one has come close to what is Real.” Indeed, he received from his guru the purest teaching of a jnani—which was none other than the timeless message of the Upanishads: Behind the appearance of the phenomenal ego is the Ultimate Reality, the eternal Self of All, which can be directly realised.
Adopt whichever tendency seems good to you. Since nothing but Atma exists, why do you seek for yourself the ghost or the illusion of the being of the universe, and why are you making yourself miserable by considering the universe a reality ? My advice to you is that you maintain the spirit of Brahmam in what is manifest as the universe, i.e. the universe is Brahmam, and Brahmam itself is the universe. With this firm faith, you should be established in the Atmic state. Do not consider yourself a human being; in case you do, you will sink to a low state. But in case you maintain the Brahmam-spirit in yourself, then you will be liberated.