Break All Obstacles
Conversation With Aiya (21)
‘What are you hearing’, asked Aiya at Keerti who was intensely listening through her earphone. Smiling, with her finger pressing on the pause button, Keerti said ‘Shivoham’.
Aiya looked at me with wide-open eyes.
I said, ‘Yea, It is a film song which she likes very much’.
‘Do you know the meaning of the word Shivoham’, asked Aiya.
‘No’, Keerti said shaking her head little apologetically.
‘Keerti I have told you before! You must always try to understand the meaning of the words that your hear and speak’.
As a typical father, I am keen that my child learns everything well.
Aiya touched my shoulder. ‘Don’t be anxious about her not learning everything. We all use so many words without ever trying to understand the true meaning of those words.’
‘May be Aiya, I only meant that we should not be like that.’
‘Very well then, do you know the word that you most often use, without even understanding what it means’, Aiya asked me pointedly.
Is that a trick question, I hesitated for a while.
As Aiya was staring at me for an answer, I started saying.
‘That is correct’, Aiya interrupted even though I had not finished my sentence.
‘Yes, the word I is what you and every one of us use more frequently but without even spending few minutes in the understanding of what that word means.’
It hit me. It was not a trick question but the blatant truth that we all shy away to embrace. For a student of Vedanta, this question is central that I have learnt. But is it relevant to our day-to-day life, I wondered.
‘Aiya, you refer to the famous spiritual question Who am I, don’t you? Is it not an insightful question for those who study Vedanta?’ I asked.
‘Who am I – the very question is Vedanta. Anyone who pursues this question to get the true meaning of the word is the true seeker. So do own up to the question. If you use a word, you should try to understand its true meaning, is that not your advice to Keerti?’
I was divinely trapped.
‘Aiya, explain to me. I am unclear.’
Aiya asked again ‘Who are you? When asked, how do you respond normally?’
‘Aiya, that depends on who asks. I say my name; I may introduce myself as the son of so and so, or whose relation I am; or what job I hold etc. How else can one introduce oneself!’
‘Those are the ways indeed! That is how one needs to relate to others as the world is a place for collaborating on external norms and references. But you should know that you cannot define your very self only with references to everything other than yourself. Just within yourself, you should know who you really are! Otherwise we remain truly ignorant!’
I nodded in agreement.
‘Yes Aiya, Please tell me, how do I understand the true meaning of I.’
‘You cannot understand!’
I was shocked to hear his response. After listening for the need to understand, I am told that I can never understand.
‘Then what? I am confused Aiya’, said I, thinking in the back of the mind, how puzzling and intriguing is Vedanta.
‘It is a fact. You see everything with your eyes. Yet can your eyes be seen by your eyes?’
‘No!’ after saying this, I quickly added, ‘yes they can, in a mirror’.
‘Correct, When I want to see me, I need a mirror, ideally clean which shows at least a part of me.’
‘This is obvious Aiya. Every day I see myself in the mirror’.
‘Well if you have taken the word mirror literally, yes, you do see your body or part of it on the mirror. Therefore do you take your body as the meaning of the word I?’
‘Well, the body is part of me. It is my body!’
‘So are these… your shirt, your car, your house etc. All these objects are those that you can say as ‘mine’. Would that mean, all these are also the meaning of I?’
‘No Aiya! Those are mine but external to me. The body is not external to me.’
‘Are you sure? When someone is dead, you say someone is gone forever, and his or her body remains. So is not there a lot more than the body for the word I?’
‘Yes, I agree. There is a mind inside the body.’
‘So your body is also external like any other object, right?’ asked Aiya.
I looked at him in agreement.
Aiya asked, ‘So when you say I, do you mean your mind?’
‘Probably! But again, I am not sure Aiya. It is because I also say my mind is sad, my mind is confused etc. So mind may also be an object that I own!’.
I was truly lost for words for a while.
‘Aiya, what is the mirror that I need to see myself, I mean not a literal mirror’.
Aiya with a twinkle in his eyes said, ‘The mirror that shows who you are is also your mind, to be precise, that part of your mind, which is normally shut but when opened, it becomes the internal-eye seeing the self.’
‘How do I open the internal eye?’
‘Well first, you must recognize the existence of the internal eye and the reason why it is shut.’
‘Why it is shut?’
‘It is not shut but obscured. Cluttered by so many things in your mind, it is not able to focus.’
‘You mean my thoughts about the day-to-day life etc. as clutters?’
‘Thoughts are very nature of the mind. So thoughts are not the clutters by themselves, but the type of thoughts, the focus of thoughts etc. To see the clutters of the mind and to reassure the validity of the goal for seeking and opening the inner eye, you need another mirror’.
I was curious.
‘The scriptures and the teachers are those mirrors. In them, you see the mistakes of your understanding on the nature of your-self and take actions to achieve an uncluttered mind. Guru triggers you to start cleaning your mind’.
‘Aiya, so purity of mind is the foremost step to understand who I am. Is that correct?’
‘Correct, but it not so simple! There are loads of means – starting with being good to others to whole lot of virtuous acts.’
‘Praying to God?’
‘That is also! But not if your prayers are for some material pleasure. That does not lead to the path of understanding who you really are’.
‘Aiya, please tell me who am I’.
‘That is for you to find out. But I can tell you it will be the most rewarding.’
Encouraged, I asked again.
‘Aiya, can you at least tell me what are the cues that I need to ascertain that I have truly found who I am’.
Aiya laughed aloud. ‘What am I to say? These are obvious and the scriptures keep shouting these glaring truth, often to our deaf-ears’.
There was some silence.
Aiya asked, ‘What is on the table?’ pointing at a book on the table.
‘There is a book’, I said.
‘If I tore the book into pieces and leave it there, then?’
‘Well, I would say, there is a lot of paper’
‘If I burn all the papers into ash’
‘Well then, there is ash. Aiya, what is the point?’
‘You see, in all your replies, you stated the state of an object. As a book, as a pile of paper and as a heap of ash the object continues to exist.’
‘Yes!’ I was curious.
‘The existence which you have indicated by the word IS never changed but it’s form of existence – like a book, paper, ash – have changed’.
I was listening intensely.
‘The ISness, if I may use the word, refers to the eternal existence. ISness always exist. Only the forms of existence change. The eternal existence is therefore a primary nature of things.’
‘Aiya, are you saying that I exist forever?’
‘Yes, eternal existence is the very nature of every one of us. The ISness is the Ishvara, the Universal existence. Therefore a cue for your search of yourself is the eternal existence. See what remains eternally in you. That should lead to the true meaning of I.’
Pleasantly surprised I asked again for the guarantee.
’Aiya, Do I exist forever? Won’t I die?’
‘You never die! Your forms may change. Know the difference. The point is death may look tragic to others as they would miss the form of you. It is never a tragic instance for you because you never die!’
We were simply sitting in silence. I was for the first-time feeling a sense of fearlessness but a cloud of anxiety.
That was then, Keerti, removing her earphone, asked blissfully, ‘What! Both of you are so quite!’
I smiled at her and then turned to Aiya.
‘Aiya, what other cues are there to help in this search of Who am I?’
Keerti for her turn asked, ‘So what is the meaning of Shivoham?’
We waited for Aiya to answer.