We had a small gathering the other day for a discourse on Vedanta. It was an introductory session to provide a general overview and was presided over by someone who has a doctorate in Vedanta. The lecture strangely coincided with Guru Poornima this week, which is to do with paying homage to the dedicated Guru. In Sanskrit – Guru has two components – GU – which means Darkness and RU – which means removal of darkness. We had invited a small group of 20 people and the session was planned to be a 90 minute session. Eventually the session ended after 135 minutes, and that too because we had to intervene and inject a break for lunch.
The lecture generated good set of questions, interspersed by some thought provoking debates. Some made good copious notes for further study and research, while others were observers, deep listener, trying to absorb everything.
There were questions as to (not in any order):
1. What does living in the moment mean?
2. How should one view Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita?
3. What are the 4 purusharthas – Dharma, Kama, Artha and Moksha?
4. If Vedanta is so good, why has it not reached the masses?
5. If Vedanta is so good, why is India is the way it is today?
6. Do we know what we are looking for?
7. Do we know what tomorrow will bring?
8. What is ‘madhya maarg’?
9. Does Vedanta give me an ability to take an audit of myself at the end of the day?
10. There were questions Karma Kanda and Gyana Kanda
11. What is Swadharma?
At the end of the session, many loved it, and suggested having more of such sessions, some said they were leaving more confused than when they came in, some said it was like drinking from the fire hose, and some volunteered to conduct a number of spin-off sessions in related areas.
From my view point, I think the session met its unstated objective. Going into the discourse, I realized t was going to generate a range of views and opinions, given the diverse group, background and experiences. Two things that were pleasantly surprising, something that I had not anticipated were:
1. Request for more of such sessions, and
2. People volunteering to conduct spin-off sessions on related subjects like – states of mind, meditation, eastern philosophy, bodytalk, etc..
The external reality is so closely intertwined and inter-related with the very understanding of the ‘self’. The pursuit of this learning and understanding is not picking one or the other (it is not a choice), the pursuit of this understanding is not one after another (it is not sequential). As the questioning begins, as the search begins and the quest for answers continues, the inter relationships begin to unfold. We start seeing the connectedness be it in plants, animals, nature and / or between people.
Getting to know as to when we are focusing on the ‘self’, its implications, and how were can, and should, shift our focus to the ‘Self’, is the underlying essence of the Vedanta philosophy.
Vedanta is the river that eternally flows. We are the pots floating on it and drifting (in ignorance). If the pot has to collect some water, it has to make an effort to tilt so that the water can flow into the mouth of the pot. Without the tilt, just contiuning to stay upright and uptight, the pot will never get to appreciate the richness and sweetness of the water.
The fundamental teachings of Sanatana Dharma have always been centered around providing a framework for a human being, that he/she could try, experience, explore, question, and expound upon. It has never been PRESCRIPTIVE. In that sense, it is not a set of COMMANDMENTS. It provides a framework that is all inclusive and comprehensive, fully recognizing that every individual is at different points in his/her journey, some reach the end in this very life, and some may take many lifes (law of Karma). It is not only for the learned or for the classes. One has to make an attempt atleast to undestand, and then decide whether to imbibe it or abandone it.
For now, make an effort to tilt the pot.