In previous part 27, it attempted to show that the world which you experience everyday — consists of an endless combination of forms and color, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings.
Isn't that your experience?
From the moment we wake up in the morning, what happens?
Without effort, if eyes are working, sight of form and color takes place in the mind.
Without effort, if ears are working, hearing takes place in the mind.
Without effort, if nostrils are not congested, various smells are captured in the mind.
We need not do anything. Just wake up! And a world is captured in the mind (antaḥkaraṇa). A world of experiences effortlessly takes place.
Then we said the mind is mithyā, dependent.
Dependent on what? On Awareness of it.
Which means Awareness can't be any mind experience — no matter how subtle or profound, mystical or ordinary.
If Awareness was an experience, then if one person feels the experience of sadness, the entire world would be simultaneously sad.
This is obviously not the case.
For one person, there is Awareness of mind's suffering. For another person, there is Awareness of mind's peacefulness.
One Awareness. Two minds.
One Awareness. Eight billion minds. Makes no difference.
Even willingness to dispute above statement depends on Awareness.
There is Awareness of mind's thought which agrees.
There is Awareness of mind's thought which disagrees.
In other words, Awareness pervades in and through every thought of every individual.
Awareness is called ātmā (Self). Or satyam.
While ever-changing experiences are mithyā, dependent on never-changing satyam.
This is the crux of Vedanta. You (ātmā) are the underlining reality of everything in the universe.
Put another way: Awareness alone is real. Everything else is a modification of Awareness owning to māyā.
However our mind is ingenious — it creates new doubts which are certainly real and legit for the individual.
Therefore we never dismiss doubts or questions pertaining to the world.
Yes, the world is mithyā. But it doesn't justify one to dismiss the world. Else it's living in denial which can only give unhappiness.
Unfortunately most use Vedanta to escape the challenges of living. Such seekers setup an artificial bubble of safety. Fortunately it bursts.
However our student certainly is not an escapist nor denying reality. For this reason…
The student asks “So everything is the One Awareness. And the entire universe, including our body-mind, is a dependent-reality. The universe is a figment of One's imagination through power of māyā. This sounds like individuals are helpless puppets of the master puppeteer? In which case, where is the need for individual effort? Can we drift through life on the river of fate?”
” No, we cannot drift aimlessly.
Life is packed with effort.
There is not a moment when we do not work.
Our body functions ceaselessly when it's alive.
And our mind works incessantly.
There is no mind without thought.
And thinking is an effort, whether we are aware or not.
Every second we make a choice.
For example, I could tell you to walk onto a road with fast moving vehicles.
You won't do it!
Because you are human being with capacity for rational thinking.
Another name for rational thinking is discernment (viveka). Ability to choose “yes” or “no” on bases of our conclusion.
Discernment is the capacity to identify one from the other.
Discernment is freewill. They are synonymous words.
Freewill is freedom to will the car's steering wheel “left” or “right” on bases of my discernment.
However discernment is limited based on past knowledge and experience.
Meaning our freewill expands the more we are educated.
A victim threatened with a knife will exercise her freewill up to a certain point. Giving the wallet.
A Ninja threatened with a knife will exercise her freewill up to a certain point. Give wallet OR self-defense OR distract and hit in throat.
Whether it's an action, no action or a different action — eitherway an effortful choice is being made.
Therefore, effort, discernment, rational thinking and freewill are inseparable. They are one mechanism looked at from four points of views.
If we choose to drift through life, it is a deliberate choice, an effort.
If we choose instead the path of Truth, in search of a solution to our problems, it is also an effort.
Unaware of the truth of our self (ātmā), we separate ourselves from the world. We become subtle escape artists.
Escape to food. Escape to holiday. Escape to new lover. Escape to different book. Escape to another teacher. Always escaping outwards.
Such individual stands apart from the world, isolated.
Fearing the world is against him or her.
Abandoned, one feels alone and helpless.
The stance of a human who distorts the meaning of freewill into one of fate (everything is predestined) — is like an antelope intentionally standing in Safari of lions.
Such mind wastes it's power of alertness and concentration on fear and anxiety or worry… which can be avoided through one's efforts.
Fear and anxiety is the price we pay for failing to discover the Truth.
Such failure produces experience of struggle in search for fulfillment.
And struggle prevents us from taking time to understand the root cause of fear and worry.
The cause is, we are born of our not-knowing who and what we are.
Since ignorance is the cause, knowledge must be the solution. Knowledge of our self, called self-knowledge (brahmavidyā).
When we choose the path of knowledge which ultimately leads to liberation (freedom from limitation; mokṣa) — it too involves effort.
Therefore, immediately release the notion that everything is destined to happen, and we are a mere witness to our misery.
This false notion of “fate” is deeply ingrained in all cultures. First step is to let go this dis-empowering idea.
We cannot be studio props in the theater of the world. Then it's better to be born of an carnivorous animal who is denied freedom to enjoy vegetarian for even one meal in it's lifetime.
As human beings, we are actors and act we must… selecting the script of self-knowledge.
This requires an alert, contemplative and disciplined mind. “
The student asks ” How can we discipline our mind when our perception is prone to subjectivity? Every mind is clouded by traces of prejudice. Freewill is meant to offer us choice. But choice is determined by our individual prejudices (or ego). How can we OVERCOME the pull of ego influencing where and how much freewill is to be exercised? “
” Understand that sense of individuality (ego) itself is a dependent-real, with no real existence.
All prejudices depend on Awareness of them.
Just like all objects (thoughts) in a room (mind) depend on the one light (Awareness) to illumine them.
Awareness is your real nature.
Meaning, you (Awareness) are actually free of all prejudices in the mind.
Knowing this much, we should not use this understanding to fall into trap of denial or escapism from a troubled mind.
Large proportion use Vedanta to escape from life, to avoid confronting what needs urgent attention. This is irresponsible and immature use of free will.
Every prejudice through our effort should be questioned and challenged. For how long? Until it's pull is neutralized or weakened.
An example of a prejudice is, “I need to please everyone at cost of my happiness“. Or “All gurus are frauds!“. Or “I'm not smart enough to figure this out!“. Or jealousy of another's fortune.
Eliminating such deeply rooted judgements of others and oneself is supposed to be challenging at first, effortful and time consuming.
Find me one worthwhile pursuit in life which doesn't take lot of time, energy and effort!
However the rewards of neutralizing prejudices (unhelpful biases, beliefs or values) are enormous.
It leads to total objectivity. “I see things as they really are. My filters are no longer distorting reality“.
Mokṣa (liberation) is result of clarity of mind.
Clarity comes from objectivity.
Objectivity comes from effort to look into one's prejudices. Then weakening them by doing a counter-action or thinking a counter-thought.
Effort implies freedom to will. I will ___!
Freewill is a privilege a human being.
Since we are humans, there is no excuse to not succeed.
If you want to use the word “fate”, then it can only apply in one single context…
You are fated to succeed because you're given the capacity of free will, else you'd be born an animal. Bhagavān doesn't make mistakes. “