AcharyaVivek wrote:Hypothesis: Is Vedanta Really Practical?
By Acharya Vivek
As an Acharya of Chinmaya Mission, people and Centers often approach me to speak on ‘Practical Vedanta’, ‘Spirituality in Day to Day Life’, Gita in Daily Living’, etc. And every time I receive such a request I smile inwardly. Smile because there is no other science as comprehensive or transformational as Vedanta! Vedanta elevates our vision. With our thoughts raised our actions match suit. The final outcome of this chain reaction: more peace for ourselves. Actually there is one more link in this chain reaction. And that is peace is contagious; our inward peace spreads outwards to all around us. The next time people or Centers ask for practical Vedanta I am going to ask them to teach me what is not practical about Vedanta!
Nonetheless, with the incessant pull of the finite world upon us, we have been deceived to believe that matters of the world are simple and matters of the spirit are complex. To save us from such deceit, we often need tips on how to apply Vedanta here and now. Fascinatingly, as these tips are shared, all those listening or reading come to appreciate the fallacy of their request for practical Vedanta. They too come to smile inwardly acknowledging that Vedanta = practical and practical = Vedanta.
Enough of the temptation, what are these tips?! Well the first tip to becoming more spiritual today is to become more aware of the utility of spirituality. Quite often our ego prevents us from acknowledging the joy we derive from engaging in puja or reading Gita or listening to Upanishads or just being quiet. Our ego tells us we do not need spirituality; that spirituality is for the dejected and aged; that there is no joy in spirituality.
If we could temporarily detach from the ego and accept that spirituality is the means to the Spirit and that the Spirit is Unconditional Joy, we would slowly replace finite joy with Infinite Joy. A method to detach from the ego is to attach to the Spirit. Every morning before we go to work or school and every evening before we sleep or study, we should read a spiritual text for 15 minutes. This sravanam should be followed up with a 15 minute walk sans a cell phone, head phone or people phone, to encourage mananam. This simple practice will fill us with inspiration each morning and evening allowing us to embrace the challenges of our work and family affairs. Everyday we fill our cars with fuel, our stomachs with food. So why is it that we do not regularly fill our minds with inspiration? We should!
The second tip to becoming spiritual today is to make spirituality more approachable. There are endless acharyas, granthas and sadhanas available to all of us. Add moksha to the equation and we are utterly overwhelmed. In this state we end up simply discarding the spiritual path as not available for us. But if we choose one acharya, one grantha and one sadhana, we will understand that the only roadblock on the spiritual path was ourselves. With all the spiritual teachers available to us, we have to follow the one which brings us the most long term solace. We should be open to, accepting of all the other teachers, but what our Guru says goes. In the same way we should be open to, accepting of all scriptures but resort to a shastra which offers us the most intimate guidance.
Many people tell me they are unable to study Gita. And I agree with them today. But not tomorrow. If we aspire to study the whole Gita today we will be unsuccessful. But if we study a shloka of Gita every morning and every evening, within a year we would have studied this most popular Vedantic Scripture. The same goes for sadhanas. We are exposed to mauna, puja, vrata, etc. If we are able to take up just one discipline sincerely, we are set. Especially if this discipline is japa. Japa can be practiced anytime, all the time. This means while we are eating, driving, exercising, etc. In Bhagavatam Lord Krishna says, that by chanting a Divine name we can be taken beyond sorrow. With the right attitude we will comprehend that spirituality is not far from us but in front of us.
The last tip on how to become more spiritual today is to make time for spirituality. Each and every week we have 168 hours. What are we doing with these 168 hours? If we took the time (no sarcasm intended) to analyze our schedules we would discover inefficiencies. Whether these inefficiencies are sleeping too much, eating too much, socializing too much or even working too much, this is a compromise on time we should be dedicating to our inner world rather than the outer. Think about how much time we invest on ourselves (i.e. beautifying the body) in comparison to how much time we invest in ourselves (i.e. beautifying the mind). Even more shocking is how much importance we give to appointments with strangers in comparison to the appointment with our timeless Self. Our relationship with our Self is even more intimate than our relationship with God.
If we still find reason not to ‘go’ to spirituality, then we have to ‘bring’ spirituality to us. And this fits in perfectly with the famous quote, ‘A spiritual person does not do different things, rather does the same things differently.’ Instead of engaging in karma let us practice karma yoga. Everyday before we begin any activity, whether it be cooking, operating or studying let us reflect and remember the basic tenets of karma yoga: 1) we do not control the fruits of our actions 2) we do control our actions 3) we should not be attached to the fruits of our actions 4) we should not be attached to inaction. With this knowledge on how to act effectively, we will be dedicating ourselves to the divine present moment. Through a simple change in attitude, actions which bind us would serve to liberate us. Even from a worldly perspective, if we can discover happiness in the action itself then we have the control to bring happiness into our lives here and now. Those who do not practice karma yoga are forever depending on chances of happiness at some other place and time. Slowly and steadily we have to make right thinking our lighthouse for guidance on the unknown spiritual path.
In our search for practical Vedanta we have discovered three secrets on how to be more spiritual. These secrets are: 1) recognizing the utility of Vedanta 2) making Vedanta more approachable 3) creating time for Vedanta.
Often at the end of a prakarana grantha the author shares with the readers, ‘If you are unable to follow any of the instructions given, surrender to the Guru and God and all virtues will accrue to you’ (i.e. Manah Shodanam, Upadesha Sara, etc.). Following the same style, if anyone finds any of the tips shared out of reach, if one simply engages in satsanga and seva one will inculcate all the greatness that comes with the daily practice of Vedanta. Through satsanga we learn we are all One. Through seva we put this learning into action. Satsanga gives us knowledge, seva gives us wisdom. The more we immerse ourselves in these sadhanas the more we will appreciate the benefits, intimacy and timeliness of spirituality. As I mentioned at the beginning there is no science more comprehensive or transformational than Vedanta.