Vedanta for Modern World

Following is a summary of a talk by Dr. Krishnamurthy Sastrigal on the topic of “Vedanta for Modern World”. Sri. Krishnamurthy Sastrigal is the retired principal of Sanskrit College in Chennai, India. He is an eminent scholar on Vedas and other scriptures.

The talk is in Tamil, a language from South India. In the following, we have provided a brief English transcript from this talk. The talk provides a collection of principles, guidance and aphorisms drawn from Upanishads considered as the essential knowledge of Vedas and hence described as Vedanta (the end or essence of Vedanta).

What is the essence of Vedantha?

Life from the view point of the soul is always wholesome, infinite bliss for everyone and everything:

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते । पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Poornnam-Adaha Poornnam-Idam Poornnaath-Poornnam-Udachyate | Poornnasya Poornnam-Aadaaya Poornnam-Eva-vashissyate || Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Om, the Divine Consciousness is wholesome in nature; The entire Universe is wholesome  as it is filled with Divine Consciousness; From the Fullness of Divine Consciousness the World is manifested. Divine Consciousness is Non-Dual and Infinite; It is wholesome (cannot be divided in parts) and hence remains as wholesome as seen from its parts or as a whole. Om, Peace within, Peace outside, Peace everywhere and at all times.

Vedantha does not say, keep your eyes closed and be seated quietly.

Use all your tools and means for retaining and maintaining inner peace for yourself and promote that inner peace of everyone and everything to the best of your reach. At the same time be focused on the inner peace that comes from the reflection on the self (Athma Dhyanam)

Vedantha has only merit and it speaks of no de-merit since it is focused on the good for the self as an enabler for the good of everything external. This has to be the focus for all modern developments.

Our wants and needs should not overwhelm our satisfaction and contentment.

Vedanta = Knowledge of the Self (Athma Gnanam)

Since there is no “other”, the joy and happiness of everyone also belongs to each person.

Injunctions for modern man from Vedas:

  • Understand and use all the tools available wisely: (e.g.): Digital tools – Cell phone.
  • Consume less than you produce.
  • Understand the true nature of Athma – the SELF which directs the intellect (and our thoughts), mind (emotions and feelings) and the body (organs and perceptions).
  • Understand or establish the superiority of the Self or consciousness over our perceivable aspects of body, mind and intellect:
    • Eyes stopped working – yes, there are problems, but one can persevere with life.
    • Mouth stopped working – yes, there are problems, but one perseveres with life.
    • Ears stopped working – yes, there are problems, we can persevere with life.
    • etc.
    • But finally the life giving force (SELF or the Soul or consciousness) stopped working and decided to depart or take leave!
      • Wait a minute; everything stopped working!
      • The entire body, mind and intellect and their functions could not function!
      • On realizing this, the sense of superiority of all else vanished and the role of the “Self” – the soul, the Athman – as the enabler of everything else became evident!
  • Take the time to learn and understand that SELF (Athma):
    • One who is inside is Athma.
    • What enables you to see through your eyes is Athma.
  • True happiness is the result of the knowledge of the Self. This leads to eternal peace and happiness.
    • Examples:
      • Saint Narada enabled with all capabilities and skills was never happy with the “current” situation: His unhappiness was the result of a dissatisfied mind.
      • Advice to Duryodhana:  You don’t get sleep because:
        • You are worried about something beyond your control
        • You want something that is truly not yours (you are cunning)
        • Your mind is not in your control!
    • Contended mind leads to control in all that we do (e.g.):
      • Inner peace and harmony
      • Spending within limits.
  • Reject all that which seems to be the source of pleasure for self-driven needs (e.g.):
    • Father with mustache kissing a child: Father’s happiness makes the baby cry!
    • Ocean is merely our unrelenting collection of desires (Samsara Saagaram)
    • Living beyond means
  • Good qualities (Athma Guna):
    • Be truthful (Sathyam)
    • Be honest (Arjyam)
    • Give generously with commitment to the needy(Dhaanam):Taittiriya Upanishad (1-11-3)
      • Give/help others with commitment (Shraddaya Dheyam)
      • Do not give casually or without sincerity / commitment (Ashradhdhaya Adheyam)
      • Donate / help in plenty or as much as you can (Shriya deyam)
      • Help / Donate without a sense of fear or merely as a ritual obligation (Bhiya deyam)),
      • Give with humility or non-attachment (Hriya deyam)
      • Donate / help give with a clear knowledge of the purpose to which you are giving (Samvida deyam).
    • Be contributor not just a consumer
    • Control your mind as best as you can
    • Be self-reliant and confident of your success.
  • Develop a clear comprehension of these good qualities of the soul.
  • Two pathways to get beyond the ocean of misery:
    • Relentless pursuit and association with truth (Sath Sangh)
    • Relentless relinquishing of attachments of any kind (Sarva Thyagam)
  • Three crutches or support in this journey:
    • Knowledge (Gnanam)
    • Resulting action (Karma)
    • Performer of such actions (Kartha)
  • Knowledge and its features: Treat the world as the entire world belongs to you.
    • Everyone is part of me
    • Everything alive is part of me
    • Every object in the universe is part and parcel of me (Thath Thwam Asi).
  • How to pursue the action with the above knowledge :
    • Relentlessly (Niyatham)
    • Without self-driven attachment (Sangha Rahitham)
    • Without passion and differentiation with others (Raga Dhwesha Varjitham)
  • Who is the Performer of above actions (Kartha):
    • Muktha Sanghaha (One totally engaged in non-attachment)
    • Relentless commitment
  • What you eat does not solely belong to you.
    • Share with others including animals before taking your share of the food.
  • The eternal joy of the soul is the same for anyone and anything
    • Everything is Brahman (Everything reflects Nature and its laws: Sarvam Brahma Mayam).
    • The joy for the soul of the ant and the elephant is one and the same.
  • Wholesome life implies:
    • Tranquil knowledge (Sathvika Gyanam),
    • Tranquil activities (Sathvika Karma);
    • Tranquil person (Sathvika Kartha).
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