This is what Swami Medhananda says: “As long as you know that you are Consciousness, Vedanta is easy”. Vedanta is also one of the greatest philosophies of India. Every morning during the month of May, Swami Medhananda Puri, a distinguished teacher of Advaita Vedanta from the Kailash Ashram in Rishikesh, reminded us that we are not the body nor the mind, that we are pure Consciousness.
Many obstacles appear when I try to realize this deceivingly simple statement. The first obstacle has to do with the meaning of “consciousness”. Words are very useful pointers but they can never replace the experience of the “thing” itself, like water cannot fully describe the experience of drinking when we are thirsty or the finger pointing to the Moon cannot replace the splendor of a full moon. Words can also be comforting traps as they reassure us when confronting the greatest mysteries of the universe. When I fail to comprehend THAT which sustains me and the entire universe, my confusion and bewilderment are very scary. Not knowing is threatening. But my resourceful mind comes to the rescue right away and finds a word, a label, for the indescribable: God, Consciousness, Buddha nature, cosmic intelligence, the Self… Ah! now I feel somewhat appeased! However, the mystery remains…
The Moon has been traditionally used as a metaphor for Buddha nature, God or Consciousness. A full Moon on a clear night sky is omnipresent, luminous and complete in its beauty and the only way to appreciate it is by simply looking at it. But analogies are only analogies and they never deliver the entire message. When I try to “see” that Moon within me the only thing I experience is my constant preoccupation with this body and mind. It is difficult to admit that all my thoughts, words and actions are motivated by the safety of this entity. Raga (attraction) or dvesha (repulsion), desire or avoidance, likes and dislikes, are the impulses that keep me busy all day long and what is worse in a state of bondage. But the Swami proved in many ways that we are not the body or the mind, so how can I be so caught up, so stuck, with this body/mind program?
Perhaps it is my own distinction between bondage and freedom, the striving for the desirable as opposed to rejecting the undesirable that is the cause of my predicament. I realize that freedom and bondage are again relative terms for those terrified with the unknown. And what if all my goings-on about searching for liberation are subtle ways to avoid taking this moment by the horns, of facing my deepest fears, of becoming truly honest and dropping all desires and aversions right now once and for all? If I could only let go for a moment the old ways, the false sense of safety, the doings, the strivings, the desire for liberation and just… BE! Who is the one striving, anyway? Can I free myself in that striving by striving impeccably without projections or expectations, free falling without a parachute, beyond doing and not doing, still and supportless while in action. What a relief that would be! No knower or object known, no naming, just experiencing… Then I could agree with Vedanta and see eye to eye with Swami Medhananda.
There is a Hindu story of a fish who went to a queen fish and asked: “I have always heard about the sea, but what is this sea? Where is it?” The queen fish explained: “You live, move, and have your being in the sea. The sea is within you and outside you, and you are made of sea, and you will end in the sea. The sea surrounds you as your own being.”
Do you have another answer?