By developing the quality of of discrimination, a power solely accorded to man, can one distinguish between the eternal and the temporal, which in turn opens the gateway to peace and happiness. Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, literally translated as the ‘Crest Jewel of Discrimination’ is a compendium of 580 verses on the ways to know, understand and reach Brahman, the Reality in us.
Composed by the Sage Śrî Ádi Śaṅkarācārya, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi is in the form of a dialogue between the student and the Teacher, with the latter guiding the student along the spiritual path. Swami Chinmayananda’s commentary on the same is the perfect companion for students walking the spiritual path in understanding its timeless wisdom.
“Before I woke up to reality, I had a symbol for all my frustration: my children’s socks. Every morning they would be on the floor, and every morning I would think, “My children should pick up their socks.” It was my religion. You could say my world was accelerating out of control in my mind; there were socks everywhere. And I would be filled with rage and depression because I believed these socks didn’t belong on the floor even though, morning after morning, that’s where they were. I believed it was my children’s job to pick them up even though, morning after morning, they didn’t.
I use the image of children and socks, but you might find that for you, the same thoughts apply to the environment, politics or money. We think these things should be different than they are, and we suffer because we believe our thoughts. At 43, after 10 years of deep depression and despair, my real life began.
What I came to see was that my suffering wasn’t a result of not having control; it was a result of arguing with reality. I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered; when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.
When you question your mind for the love of truth, your life always becomes happier and kinder. Inquiry helps the suffering mind move out of its arguments with reality. It helps us move into alignment with constant change. After all, the change is happening anyway, whether we like it or not. Everything changes. But when we’re attached to our thoughts about how that change should look, we feel uncomfortable when we realize we’re not in control. Through inquiry, we enter the area where we do have control: our thinking. We question our thoughts about the ways in which the world seems to have gone crazy, for example. And we come to see that the craziness was never in the world, but in us.
When we understand our thinking, we understand the world, and we come to love it. In that, there’s peace.
Who would I be without the thought that the world needs improving? Happy where I am right now: the woman sitting on a chair in the sunlight. Pretty simple. The apparent craziness of the world, like everything else, is a gift we can use to set our minds free. Any stressful thought you have about the planet, for example, or about life and death, shows you where you’re stuck, where your energy is being exhausted as a result of not fully meeting life as it is, without conditions. You can’t free yourself by finding a so-called “enlightened” state outside your own mind. When you question what you believe, you eventually come to see you’re the enlightenment you’ve been seeking.
Until you can love what is–everything, including the apparent violence and craziness–you’re separate from the world, and you’ll see it as dangerous and frightening. I invite everyone to put these fearful thoughts on paper, question them, and set themselves free. When the mind is not at war with itself, there’s no separation in it. I’m 65 years old and unlimited. I’m no longer interested in what my children do with their socks.”
Quoted from a book by Byron Katie: A thousands names for joy
The Fundamental Presumption of our Culture
There is one fundamental presumption upon which our world culture is founded. This basic presumption states that experience is divided into two essential elements – a subject and an object – joined together by an act of knowing, feeling or perceiving.
This gives rise to the familiar formulations of experience such as, “I know such and such,” “I feel sad,” “I perceive the tree.” In this way experience is believed and felt to consist of a knower and a known, a feeler and a felt, a perceiver and a perceived. In each case a subject knows, feels or perceives an object.
The subject and object are two inseparable aspects of the same belief – the belief in separation or duality. Mystics tend to explore the subject and scientists and artists tend to explore the object or world. However, being inseparable aspects of the same belief, the investigation of either will suffice for an understanding of the true nature of experience.
Our Essential Nature of Being, Knowing and Happiness
Let us start with our self. What can we say for certain about ‘I,’ our self, the subject, the one that knows experience? The first thing is that I am obviously present – I am. If I were not present I wouldn’t be aware of these words. And the second self-evident fact about our self is that I am aware or knowing. If this were not true I would not be aware of thoughts, sensations or perceptions.
In other words, I am and the ‘I’ that I am, is aware that I am. This knowing of our own being – its knowing of itself – is the most familiar, intimate and obvious fact of experience and is shared by all.
This present and aware ‘I’ is sometimes referred to as ‘Awareness’, which means the ‘presence of that which is aware’. It is a word in which the two fundamental qualities of our self – being and knowing – are recognized as one.
What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing.
As such ‘I’ could be likened to an open, empty space to which or in which the objects of the mind, body and world (thoughts, sensations and perceptions) appear. And just as empty space, relatively speaking, cannot resist or be agitated by the appearance or activity of any object within it, so the open, empty space of Awareness cannot resist or be disturbed by any appearance of the mind, body or world, irrespective of their particular quality or condition. This inherent absence of resistance is the experience of happiness; this imperturbability is peace. This happiness and peace are not dependent upon the condition of the mind, body or world and are present in and as the essential nature of Awareness under all conditions and in all circumstances.
Thus happiness and peace, as well as being and knowing, are essential to our true nature.