WHAT IS NOT SPIRITUALITY?
I have heard once a friend of mine saying, “Shankaracharya is the founder of Advaita and has always believed that the entire world is nothing but Maya or an illusion. But when a mad dog chased him, he ran!”
Yes, very common exclamation. Let us see how we can explain the reason to him. Shankaracharya used to say, “There is no degree of reality but only of unreality”.
What does it mean?
The age old “Serpent and the Rope” (Sarpa Rajju) delusion. Mistaking a rope for a serpent. Rope is the reality. A cloud of unreality makes it appear like or gives it the impression of a serpent.
Suppose you are traveling by a car. It’s misty and rainy weather. The front glass of your car is covered by rain drops and the road ahead is hardly visible. You saw a truck coming against. You stopped the car by the side of the road. After cleaning the glass you found that what appeared like the truck was a shop at the immediate turning ahead. Was there a truck in reality? No. Reality remains the same. When you dispelled the unreality in you, you could see the real.
So, reality is always before us. Each moment. We can discover it any time. The so called Enlightened people like Buddha, Ramana Maharshi and many others have discovered it. They had no unreality left in them. They were the embodiment of reality.
Then, what prevents us from discovering it? The accumulated knowledge or ignorance in us. There must have been many birth efforts from the great men to dispose the unreality in them. Gradually they could flush it off.
Who prevents us from the real?
The Mind with its conclusions prejudices and endless traffic of thoughts acts like a screen marring the real.
Can we reduce the traffic of thoughts?
Yes. It is for this we’ve all the sadhanaas viz. yoga, meditation etc. If you don’t know that you are not the mind, you are still very far from spirituality or reality.
The mind blocks new thoughts and ideas. It keeps chewing the same cud of thoughts. Imagine X has 500 thoughts in his mind in one minute whereas Y has only 10 thoughts. Whose mind has more space inside? Of course, Y’s. The gap between thoughts has to be increased. Meditation helps you achieve this. In meditation, you become a witness of your mind and the thoughts flow. No effort. You would be able to see how each thought dies down in a short span. Slowly the gap would make you see the empty space within. The more the space, the closer you are to the real.
A spiritual person is one who has the viveka or discriminatory sense between himself and his mind or the real and the unreal. He has raised his consciousness level to a great height. It is from this level of consciousness he looks at the world. He may not be aware why he is greater than others. But he surely knows who is ignorant.
Simultaneously he too has to exist in a body, in the world. He needs to have common sense, practical intelligence. The enlightened person has no special privilege over others- see, here is the common misconception about spirituality. Majority think that an enlightened person should never be ill, he should be above all financial or other difficulties which common man goes through. Wrong. Absolutely wrong.
UG Krishnamurthy was asked by someone why, though enlightened, Gurdjieff met with an accident, UG replied in his characteristic humor:
“He was enlightened but not the driver of the other car”.
Swami Vivekananda is reported to have asked Sri Ramakrishna when the latter was buckling under throat cancer:
“Why can’t your goddess save you from this and make you healthy?”
Sri Ramakrishna laughed at this ignorance saying,
“This is the body and body is nature. Nature is prone to changes”
The famous Nisargadatt Maharaj whose words are compiled in “I am That”, sits in a pan shop in Mumbai. Ramana Maharshi had a stomach cancer and had to undergo an operation.
The enlightening story told by Sri Ramakrishna about a man injured by an elephant for taking the lesson literally that “Everything in the world is God”.
The same with Shankaracharya’s Maya.