Vedanta helps us in gaining an understanding of the self and the different constituents of Body, Mind, Intellect and Spirit. The Spirit in us is the ‘atman’ within, that is the observer, untainted by manifestations that take place at the body, mind and intellect levels. We are largely ‘atman’ but we are so absorbed in the physical body layers that we don’t recognize or understand ‘atman’. (The Body constitutes 1%, the Mind constitutes about 3%, the Intellect constitutes about 6%, and the Spirit constitutes the remaining, a phenomenal 90%.)
What is the ramification? The ramification is what we see all around. When we operate with all our energies focused on the body, we see maximum difference (we see someone as tall, someone as short, someone as black, someone as white, someone as male, some as female, some as handsome, some as beautiful, some as ugly,…the list is endless). This strong identification with the physical body leads to false sense of individuality, where the ‘I’ in us is associated with the body.
Vedanta says, identification with the body, is the fundamental issue that we need to realize, recognize and correct. When we shift focus from the body to the mind, we find some dilution in this identification with the self (body). Hence the love between mother and child where the mother sees the child as one, is able to expand the ring of oneness. Shift focus further to the intellect and you see further uniformity (the love spreads beyond the nucleus family. Gandhiji, for example, who saw the nation as one) AND finally shift focus to the spirit and beyond spirit, and you see maximum union / commonality (for example, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Christ, Mother Teresa, Buddha, etc.)
Today, we are able to comprehend to some extent, the intellect but when it comes to the dimension of the spirit, we don’t understand. Vedanta says, we are not able to recognize our spirit because it is covered by our ignorance. Ignorance driven out of greed, jealousy, association with the body and the associated mental conflicts that prevent us from connecting with our true inner SELF.
Looking Good, Feeling Good and Being Good, is in reference to the dimension that we give most importance to. When operating at a body level, it is about looking good, when operating at a mind/emotional level it is about feeling good, and when operating at an intellect and spiritual level it is about being good.
In Vedanta it is said a space in the pot feels limited by the pot and feels other than the outer space. But in reality the pot exists in the space. The space in the pot is the same as the space outside the pot. Similarly, the nature of consciousness in the body, is same outside the body also. It is a matter of one’s focus that requires change. (focus on the pot you see difference of inner space and outer space. Focus on the space, you see oneness of the conscious, focus on the body/pot you see differences.
In the excerpt from Adi Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam below, Swami Sukhabodhananda explains this very well. Excerpt from the book ‘Bhaja Govindam’ by Swami Sukhabodhananda:
An enlightened person having gained Divine wisdom drops his individuality. The ignorant is considered more of a social being. He is a part of society. He is either controlled consciously or unconsciously by society. Thus many are caught up in ‘looking good’. Many sacrifice ‘feeling good‘ and ‘being good’ for the sake of ‘looking good’. Why do we do this? It is because one is a social being and controlled by social expectations.
If one is on the path of spiritual journey, one is more focused on ‘being good’ and does not unwisely dance to people’s expectations. Such a person lives innocently like a child. People cannot understand that such a state of one’s being is of that where one experiences ONENESS.
A wise man is like a King of the inner world. He may be a beggar outwardly but feels like a King inwardly. True Kingdom is the kingdom of the soul. A wise man has no image, thus is inwardly free. Such an inner freedom is unheard of by the ignorant. The ignorant are guided, controlled and bound by their image.
A wise man is in perfect yoga as he is not a slave to anything, he is inwardly free. He does not wear masks to impress others. He is one who has won over the unconsciousness in him.
The wise man is beyond merit and demerit.
Even the desire to gain merit is a subtle bondage. The fear of avoiding demerit is also a subtle bondage. The greed to be somebody and the fear of being nobody is a great bondage. Greed and fear happens because one is afraid to die, afraid to face death. A yogi has no fear and has no greed.
Whose mind is joined in perfect yoga with its goal?
A mind without ego reveals in yoga. Ego divides and thus one feels it is other than oneself. Once you feel that the other is different, you are in conflict with the other. Such a life leads to inner pain and stress. A wise man knows that he is not different essentially than the other. Only ego has merit and demerit.
Key message – When your focus is on ‘being good’, you naturally and effortlessly ‘feel good’ and look good’. When the focus is on ‘looking good’ then you are caught in the trappings of the world.