Soul Searching

Chandran, Nanda (NBC) Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Thu Dec 18 13:16:37 CST 1997

These are musings of mine and I hope these do not offend anybody.  I've been
doing a lot of soul searching for the past few months and these are the
'theories' and conclusions that I've come up with and I would be grateful if
somebody corrects me where I'm erring.

I'm quite new at Advaitam, just one year old. During the year I've
experienced quite a few varied emotions on Advaitam. Sometimes I've rued the
day I ever heard of this school of thought, on other occasions loved it,
wondered whether it was all foolishness or a deliberate strategy to control
the population or the outcome of the efforts of brilliant minds to refute
other schools of philosophy. But what has sustained me is the importance
given to Truth, the usage of reason and freedom of thought, encouraged by
this school.

I've never been religious, in the sense that it's commonly understood and in
that sense I'm an atheist. But if I was in trouble, due to years of early
training, the Gayathri would be automatically on my lips. This I credit to
the weakness of my mind. When I started out on Advaitam, I was a bit
troubled about the concept of a Supreme Brahman and that I was working
towards union with him. I could understand that all this world, the trees,
the birds, the animals and the humans were all part of nature and in that
sense the life inside me was created by nature too and that this must be
identical with the lives existing all around me. But my mind rebelled
against the concept of a Supreme God. Years back, when we burnt the body of
my Grandfather and dissolved his ashes in the Bay of Bengal (it's actually
Marina Beach, Madras), I was moved to great sadness, that I couldn't
understand what the purpose of his life had been. From a very rich man to a
pauper, struggling with eight kids and finally seeing them well off and then
dying peacefully at 80 odd years. It is quite analogous to the situation  in
Kathopanishad, when Nachiketas refuses all of Yama's offerings of material
wealth, citing the reason that death would make them all invalid. It was
then I realized that my quest was not union with God, but the discovery of
something, which would give some meaning to my existence - something which
has to be within me, for I'm the subject. And if this leads to union with
God, well and good. (Infact oflate, I've developed a dislike for the term
'God', Brahman or Nature or Universal Spirit sounds better).

Reading the Upanishads and other works on Advaitam from an intellectual
perspective is totally different when doing it with the purpose of living
it. The doubts and restlessness which have assailed me during the past year
have been so great, that there've been quite a few occasions when I was
tempted to abandon all this and follow Omar Khayaam's suggestion to fill the
cup and enjoy, when the day is sweet. Thoughts have preyed upon me whether I
was just trying to be superior and ultimately deceiving myself. What with so
many schools of thoughts, each with varying opinions and  how could I be
sure that I was choosing the right one? What if years of struggle went down
the drain because I opted for the wrong school? What about the 'chosen'
people? What about the argument that if there's truly a God, then he
couldn't have created us for the sake of worshipping him, but to live and
enjoy life, as a father feels for his offspring! But it struck me that if
there was truly a God, would he have created people so unequally? Wouldn't
the strong, the beautiful , the rich and the intelligent be at an advantage?
What about the weak, the ugly, the poor and the stupid? So there must be
something which makes them all equal. Something which everybody could enjoy,
an enjoyment which cannot be matched by any other. This and the death
equation by Nachiketas and the desire to find a meaning to this existence
have what have been sustaining me.

Somehow, I can't think of this process as a quest with a Goal. Can
understanding oneself be termed "Goal"? No, I feel it's my duty. So does it
mean that those who're engaged in worldly pursuits are wrong? I don't think
so,  for the difference between them and an aspirant, is that while they
settle for something temporary, the aspirant longs for something lasting -
the Truth. And I don't feel there's anything wrong with either. Except that,
the greater the effort the greater the reward and if one wants to access the
Supreme Being within, one has to go through the tough process - sanyasam (In
whatever way you define it). For me, Maya refers to objects or experiences
or feelings which are transient. I would equate my greatest worldly desire
with Maya. But can the love of a mother for an offspring be termed Maya?
Because this love, more than love of any other kind, generally lasts
throughout and only disappears with death. But again can I think beyond
death? As all that is born must die, all that dies must also be born -
there's no way to prove it, nor do I see any need to. Because for me this
life is the most important and it's in this life I've to find out the reason

When really thinking about it, I don't see any difference between me and the
first man, millineums ago, who too went on this pursuit. For all the
development the world has undergone, man's soul, anxieties and suffering
remain the same and infact increases with 'development'. When I'm feeling
down and out, I think about the ancient seers and get rejuvenated with the
knowledge that they too must have felt the same way and then evolved and
achieved. But I atleast have the benefit of their experience, when they'd to
discover and explore their way on their own.

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