401. S: Shall we therefore say that Brahman is the commonality of everything there is?
402. G: Now go back to the Atman, the Consciousness in all that is animate.
403. S: I see where you are leading me. You are going to connect this Atman with that Brahman?
404. G: You have just missed the mark. Not just ‘connect’; I am going to say They are the same.
405. S: What! Atman and Brahman are the same?
406. G: Exactly. This is the fundamental conclusion of the Upanishads.
407. S: It is too much!
408. G: What is your reservation?
409. S: Atman is our inner essence. Brahman is what is everywhere. How can they be the same?
410. G: What is everywhere can be in your core also!
411. S: That doesn’t seem to be enough logic for me.
412. G: That is why our elders resort to the authority of the Upanishads for this.
413. S: But the concept of Brahman is then again unclear.
414. G: Well, you cannot hope to understand Brahman purely by your intellect.
415. S: How else do I understand it?
416. G. Brahman is not an object of knowledge.
417. S: Then what is it?
418. G: It is itself pure knowledge.
419. S: You are only playing with words.
420. G: No. Brahman cannot be known in the usual way by which everything else is known.
421. S: Even by observation and experiment?
422. G: Because, Brahman is beyond cause and effect, substance and attribute.
423. S: Is it then just a void?
424. G: Not at all, because it is a bundle of consciousness.
425. S: Then how are we supposed to become familiar with it?
426. G: Why familiarity? You are It.
427. S: You mean I am Brahman?
428. G: Of course. But you have to qualify that ‘I’.
429. S: In what way?
430. G: The ‘I’ has been covered and camouflaged by so many other things.
431. S: Earlier you said there are two selves, namely the outer (BMI) and the Inner.
432. G: The Inner Self is the Atman. It witnesses all your actions but is never involved in any of them.
433. S: Is that the one which is the same as Brahman?
434. G: Yes. We shall discuss that point later in more detail.
435. S: Now that you have mentioned ‘actions’, I have several questions.
436. G: You may ask them. But remember to include your thoughts in the category of ‘actions’.
437. S: How can actions and thoughts belong to the same category?
438. G: Because thoughts are also actions -- actions of the mind.
439. S: Who is responsible for my thoughts and actions – most of which I would like to disown?
440. G: You can never disown any of your thoughts or actions. You have to be responsible for them.
441. S: In what way?
442. G: Thoughts and actions leave their vAsanAs in your mind.
443. S: What are vAsanAs?
444. G: VAsanAs are imprints of earlier tastes and tendencies. They form the cause of future birth.
445. S: And the state of no future birth is supposed to be moksha!
446. G: Moksha, release from births, cannot be attained until vAsanAs are exhausted.
447. S: How do I exhaust all my vAsanAs?
448. G: It is a good question. But let us do some organization of our discussion.
449. S: I am ready.
450. G: As you exhaust earlier vAsanAs you also acquire newer vAsanAs.
451. S: That is unavoidable.
452. G: But there is a strategy to avoid this acquisition.
453. S: I thought Vedanta is far from being a game of strategies!
454. G: But Lord Krishna is a strategist. He tells you how to avoid future vAsanAs sticking to you.
455. S: You mean in His Gita?
456. G: Yes. He says: Do your actions with detachment.
457. S: I have heard this word very often in religious expositions. Please tell me about it, Guruji.
458. G: The word ‘non – attachment’ is more expressive. Let us use it.
459. S: Does non-attachment mean that we should not be attached to anything?
460. G: It is the attitude of non-attachment that is recommended.
461. S: But if I am not attached to my work, how do I do it efficiently?
462. G: Actually only then you can do it efficiently.
463. S: It is perplexing. How can that be?
464. G: Because attachment will cloud the issues, as it did for Arjuna on the battlefield.
465. S: But how does Vedanta resonate with this idea of non-attachment?
466. G: It is Vedanta that gives the right rationale for non-attachment.
467. S: Shall I try to reason it out?
468. G: Go ahead, that is what I like.
469. S: Vedanta says that there are two selves in me: the perishable BMI and the imperishable Atman.
470. G: You have begun well.
471. S: The Atman is changeless, so does not do any action.
472. G: All action is done by the BMI.
473. S: But it is the Self that motivates the action.
474. G: No, the Self does not motivate the action. In the presence of the Self action takes place.
475. S: So who is responsible for the action: the Self or BMI?
476. G: BMI cannot act; it is inert.
477. S: Then it is the Self that is responsible.
478. G: That is where you miss a subtle point. There are two selves.
479. S: A self which identifies with BMI and a self which does not.
480. G: You be the Self which does not so identify.
481. S: But then who acts?
482. G: Action happens in the presence of You, namely the Self which does not identify with BMI.
483. S: But then I will become responsible.
484. G: No, You are only a witness, a silent non-participating, non-attached witness!
485. S: You mean: Let my mind think, Let my hand act ... Still should I remain just a witness?
486. G: Yes. That is the meaning of your identifying with the Inner Self.
487. S: This is walking on razor’s edge!
488. G: That is why a Krishna had to explain that strategy!
489. S: Looks like we are cheating ourselves!
490. G: There is no cheating here. In the presence of the Inner Self, because of that presence, action takes place.
491. S: In any case the doer is I myself, right?
492. G: No. You are not the doer. Your attitude is ‘na ahaM kartA’. “I am not the doer”.
493. S: But with this posture, I can go and kill somebody and say “I have not killed”!
494. G: First of all it is not a posture. But tell me, why would you kill somebody?
495. S: Because I need to kill. I want to.
496. G: What is the need?
497. S: Oh, it could be several things. Revenge, maybe.
498. G: That is it. By bringing things like revenge, jealousy, etc. you have brought in attachment.
499. S: Attachment to what?
500. G: Attachment to the result of your action.
501. S: What is wrong with it?
502. G: Then you are not in identity with the Inner Self. The Inner Self is indifferent to all results; and it has no attachments.
503. S: But suppose I need to kill because it is my duty, like that of a soldier on the front.
504. G: Are you doubly sure that you are only doing your duty and you have no hate of the object of your hurt?
505. S: You mean, like a doctor on the surgery table?
506. G: Yes, that is a right example.
507. S: So if hate is not there, is killing right when done as a duty?
508. G: It is on that basis, the military justifies itself.
509. S: You are now entering the political arena.
510. G. No, you are missing the most important point about the state of the mind.
511. S: What is it?
512. G: There should be no hate, no attachment. Then the sin or otherwise of the action does not devolve on you.
513. S: Is this what is known as Karma yoga?
514. G: Karma Yoga builds up on this idea and gives you a methodology to act up to this.
515. S: What is that methodology?
516. G: It is known as ‘yajna’.
517. S: I have no clear idea what it is. But I have heard the word.
518. G: How does a dedicated nurse in a hospital work?
519. S: You said ‘dedicated’. So she must be doing her work excellently well.
520. G: Does she have any self-interest?
521. S: Maybe she is interested in her monthly pay.
522. G: Suppose she works for the love of it and does not receive any salary.
523. S: She must be really a very dedicated soul.
524. G: Now what would you say about her work?
525. S: She must be great!
526. G: Leave aside the appreciation. Here is somebody working for the sake of work and is not having any self-interest.
527. S: Is this called the yajna-type of work?
528. G: Yes. Gita says every action should be done with a yajna spirit.
529. S: Easier said than done.
530. G: As usual Krishna tells you how. Dedicate all your actions to God.
531. S: I can certainly dedicate all my actions to God, but still be doing wrong things.
532. G: Dedication means you do only that type of work which your God of dedication would like you to do.
533. S: And avoid that kind of work which that God would not want me to do – I can see the game.
534. G: Perfectly right. Dedication means voluntary acceptance of discipline for the sake of your object of dedication.
535. S: The concept of yajna is really great!
536. G: Not just great. It is the greatest contribution of Hinduism to the ways of living for the whole world.
537. S: But what is the point of all this, except to say it is good?
538. G: The bottom line is this. By doing every work as a yajna, you avoid the vAsanA of the work sticking to you.
539. S: Where did ‘vAsanA’ come here in this picture?
540. G: We were saying that when you work with detachment, sin or otherwise of the action would not devolve on you.
541. S: Does the yajna attitude give you detachment?
542. G: Exactly. When you dedicate your action to your God, it means you have no self-interest.
543. S: But aren’t you interested in the result of your action?
544. G: You are like an actor on the stage. Result on the stage, of the action on the stage, is the Director’s responsibility.
545. S: Oh! Here the Director is God! But Besides the example of a hospital nurse, can I have other examples of this?
546. G: During the pre-independence times of India, many of our freedom fighters had that dedication.
547. S: Some of them were not believers in God. Who or What was their God of dedication?
548. G: Mother India or BhArat-mAtA was their Goddess of dedication.
549. S: They even laid their lives for Her sake.
550. G: When every action is done in this yajna fashion, work becomes worship.
551. S: What is so great about worship? Why worship? Why God?
552. G: Are you taking me into a discussion of God?
553. S: I was only waiting for this opportunity.
554. G: Articulate your doubts.
555. S: Earlier we concluded that Brahman is the Ultimate and it is nameless and formless.
556. G: Certainly. So what?
557. S: Then why do we worship several Gods and Goddesses with different names and forms?
558. G: Brahman is infinite in existence, infinite in knowledge and infinite in Bliss.
559. S: If Brahman were infinite in Bliss and is also all-pervading, then Bliss should be all-pervading.
560. G: Of course it is.
561. S: Don’t tell me that, Guruji. We have only to look at the tragedies in the world.
562. G: Tragedies are natural in world-life. They cannot but be there. You have to transcend them to see the Bliss.
563. S: It looks like escapism from reality.
564. G: I am not asking you to run away from it.
565. S: What else does ‘transcending’ mean?
566. G: As a citizen of the world your duty is to go and do your best, first to prevent and then remedy, the tragedies.
567. S: Then why are you asking me to look beyond them?
568. G: Looking beyond is not looking away. You should not turn your head the other way.
569. S: You are puzzling. Please make it simple.
570. G: Be in the world. Be an honest citizen. Do your duty. But have an attitude of transcendence.
571. S: How does that help?
572. G: It helps in your ascent to spirituality.
573. S: You have not yet told me why I have to be spiritual.
574. G: I thought you showed interest in spirituality.
575. S: I was only exhibiting an academic curiosity.
576. G: An academic curiosity would only lead to scholarship; it would not lead you to Mokshha.
577. S: I apologise, Guruji. I stand corrected.
578. G: In fact, in order to absorb advaita, there are four prerequisite qualifications prescribed by Shankara.
579. S: I would like to know them, certainly.
580. G: First, a capacity to discriminate between what is permanent and what is ephemeral.
581. S: Even the beginning seems tough!
582. G: Secondly, a dispassion towards desire for acquisitions, here or in the world hereafter.
583. S: I see why you played down my academic curiosity!
584. G: The third one is an intense anguish for obtaining release from the cycle of births and deaths.
585. S: It is easy to agree with this, but it is the intensity of feeling that is in question .
586. G: And a conglomerate of six qualities: Equanimity, Self-control, Self-withdrawal, Endurance, Tranquillity and Faith.
587. S: Blessed are those indeed, who have all these!
588. G: Let us now come back to the topic of transcendence of transience.
589. S: You mean whatever is transient must be transcended?
590. G: Good. The scriptures have a beautiful way of saying this.
591. S: I would like to hear that.
592. G: All that is transient is called mAyA, in Vedanta.
593. S: I thought mAyA meant Illusion.
594. G: What is illusion?
595. S: Illusion is something which appears but is actually non-existent.
596. G: Then mAyA is not Illusion.
597. S: Then all those expositors of Vedanta, who translate mAyA as Illusion, are wrong?
598. G: It is not a question of translation; it is a question of what impression is conveyed.
599. S: So if mAyA conveys the meaning of illusion, meaning appearance of falsity, then that is not right?
600. G: mAyA simply means whatever is transient, that is, comes and goes.