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  Volume 4 - Issue 09 SEPTEMBER 2006

The Vision of the Non-Dual - 7


The Fish and The Bird

Like a fish living in an ocean covered on all sides with water, so also is man enveloped on all sides by the veiling power of the supreme spirit called Maya or illusion. This maya therefore is often termed as “The Divine Enchantress”. The fish lives, grows and has its being in water and dies in water. It knows of nothing else. So also, is man drowned in this Maya. How then can a fish understand the sky, and the bird which flies? How can a fish even understand the concept of freedom? How can a fish even yearn to be like a bird in the sky? The fish here is the jivi, or the individual, and the bird refers to the spirit.


Man craves for freedom consciously or unconsciously. He struggles, suffers and toils not knowing what will free him from the shackles that bind and weigh him down. He seeks freedom from this Bhava Sagara or the ocean of life. We see this pining for the oversoul, the Atman, in his poetry, the arts, his emotional outpourings, plays, music, mental imagery, etc. Like a fish in water which can only imagine and ruminate about the sky, Man seeks economic freedom, political freedom, freedom of expression, etc. but rarely seeks freedom from the thralldom of the senses, from the coils of body consciousness, from desires, from the 6 inner enemies, which alone can free him from the clutches of Maya.

At long last, man develops dispassion for things of this evanescent world, including the noble infirmities of name and fame; he finds that it is spiritual freedom or mukti alone that can liberate him from all bonds, and then his life gains a new vision, a new momentum, a holistic attitude and a new direction. The child which had been playing with toys all along, finally throws them away and calls out for its mother, and the mother comes to him. The Truth or Brahman is finally realized through His Grace, as it is man’s true nature and his birthright.

Attaining Beatitude

How does Swami help us take us away from the negative aspect of life or Maya? Swami says Maya is neither the truth nor untruth. He calls it a half-truth at best. It is a fact that life after life one has been fed (and brainwashed) on half-truths. Rather than more learning about the Truth, we must do some proper “unlearning” and cleansing, to get rid of the mountain high “crystallized superstitions” (as Swami Vivekananda puts it) of half-truths that weigh us down and block our vision. This is our priority.

“Bend the body, mend the senses first” says Swami. “End the mind” comes last. The negative thought processes in man, are what constitutes the warp and woof of the mind and Maya. All self-centred worldly thoughts, sense enjoyments and attachments constitute negativity. This is counteracted by positive thought vibrations, by dwelling upon the selfless nature of the spirit.

Constant dwelling and contemplating on these lofty positive aspects of Brahman and developing a wealth of spiritual thought and feelings for the divine, followed by corresponding selfless actions and a holistic attitude towards life, helps the individual shed its selfishness and attain to its final true state of beatitude.

Swami often says to his devotees, “I am ready - are you? Be ready!” The photographer always asks you to be ready before clicking your photograph, but God may click at any time and one has to be ready all the time. Therefore choiceless awareness needs to be developed at all times by the spiritual aspirant through practicing namasmarana, or chanting of God’s Name, selfless service, etc.


How Can The Fish Fly?

Coming back to the fish and bird story, there is one way for the fish to turn into a bird and fly, and that is through the process of evolution. The fish evolves to be an amphibian like a frog, later a land reptile, gradually evolves wings and turns into a bird and flies in the sky. From being surrounded by water, the evolved being is now free from water, and surrounded by the sky.

Similarly, in the case of the jiva or the individual, who is surrounded by Maya, evolution is not so much at the physical level as the human body is a perfectly developed instrument. It is touching the domains of the vital, emotional, psychic, and spiritual levels of man, that the inner man (subtle body) can develop and undergo transformation.


Eluding Illusion

Swami has beautifully explained how one can conquer this maya with an analogy. Swami says, “Maya is like the ferocious watchdog guarding the gate to your master’s mansion. To get across, you have to do one of the two things. Either you fearlessly grapple with the dog and overcome it to reach the master; or else, you call out loudly and pleadingly to the master in the house. The master hearing your cries, may come to the gate and take you in. The dog will be totally subdued that way also.”

So one must be strong and steady enough spiritually not to be affected by the all-pervasive illusion and see through it every time; or a much easier option is to call for the Master, the divine Lord. With His grace, the illusion will disappear and will not raise its hood as long as we are under His care.

The Two Techniques for Overpowering Illusion

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great Saint of India, explaining the same issue used to say “Maya is like the big net that the fisherman throws into the water to catch the fish. All fish fall into the trap of the net except two types. The very small fish escape through the holes in the net while the very large ones, due to their sheer size and strength, tear the net asunder and escape.”

Dasoham – The First

Swami explains the idea through two types of devotion that a devotee can practice - Dasoham and Soham. In the ‘Dasoham’ form of devotion, the devotee prays, “Lord, I am only your servant” and surrenders unconditionally to the Lord. The devotee’s ego diminishes day by day and is finally subdued.

This is one way of escaping through the net of illusion – when you become smaller than the holes in the net of illusion. Hanuman from the epic Ramayana, Swami says, is the ideal example for this.

In the court of Lanka, when the demon king Ravana asked him who he was, Hanuman, though one of the mightiest warriors of earth, said, “I am a servant of Lord Rama.” Always at the service of Rama, never did Hanuman think twice when Lord Rama entrusted him with any task in the whole story of Ramayana.



The Second Way - Soham

The other way of extricating oneself from the clutches of illusion is the Soham or Shivoham form of devotion. Here the devotee through spiritual enquiry and acquisition of right knowledge recognizes and realizes the Brahman or the supreme spirit. The devotee starts identifying himself with the Universal Spirit and feels “I am That”. Jesus Christ, towards the end of his earthly sojourn, declared “I and my father are one.” There are many enlightened saints who could visualize the unity of creator and creation.

For them everything in the world around was God and they too were no different from the creator. When this happens, he breaks the net of illusion - just like the big fish - and merges with the universal consciousness. Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Adi Sankaracharya of the modern era are exemplars of this form of devotion.

Therefore the solution lies in opening one’s heart and training the mind either way. What is outside, Swami says, is actually a reflection of the inner being. And there is a beautiful story Swami narrates to illustrate this.

It’s All in the Mind

Once Krishna wished to bring to King Dhritarashtra’s notice, the difference between his two cousin princes, Yudhisthira and Duryodhana. Krishna called Duryodhana and told him that he wanted to do something important and that he was on the lookout for a good man with good qualities. He asked Duryodhana to look for such a man. Duryodhana searched the world over for a few days and said that there was no person with really good attributes and if there was anyone with good qualities, the best was himself and that he came nearest to the ideal.

Then Krishna sent Duryodhana away and asked Yudhisthira to come. He told him to look for a man who is very bad and whose qualities are such that there can be no one else worse than him. Yudhisthira searched the world over and came back and told Krishna that he could not find anyone, it was himself. He said that he fits the description which Krishna gave. For Duryodhana to say that he was the best man and for Dharmaraja to say that he was the worst man, the world is not responsible. The qualities in them and the way they look at themselves and at others are responsible. Krishna thereby proves to Dhritarashtra that good and bad in the world are projections of one’s own quality of the mind. What is within oneself, is seen without.

The realization and practice of this truth is one of the significant milestones for a spiritual aspirant. Literally it is the “light” at the end of the tunnel. Purifying one’s own inner self will purify the world around us. Just like a person wearing red glasses will see the whole world red. Mother Teresa saw only God and love everywhere, be it a toddler, or a dying man. Forbearance, humility, cheerfulness – all reflect in one’s personality when there is inner purity.


Purity – A Must For Enlightenment

No purity of the heart - no enlightenment! It is as simple as that. No amount of verbal pyrotechniques or intellectual gymnastics can liberate the seeker, if the heart is filled with ego, pride, anger, etc. Swami says “The magnet is very powerful, but it attracts the iron filings only if the filings are free from rust. There may be diamonds and pearls, etc. but the magnet will not attract them.”

The task of the seeker is therefore to free himself from the rust and dust of the life of worldly illusion, the thralldom of the senses and body consciousness. Immortality is the goal - love, perfection and freedom follow in its wake.

As Swami says;

“Morality is the only way to immortality,”

“The end of Knowledge is Love.
The end of wisdom is freedom
The end of culture is Perfection.”

- Sri S Suresh Rao and the
Heart2Heart Team


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Vol 4 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2006
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