In this episode, we explore Non-Dualism and the wisdom of Adi Shankara from 8th Century India. We talk about the importance of philosophy vs. religion. We explore:
- Who was Adi Shankara?
- Why is it important to understand Advaita Vedanta – Non-Dualism
- The implications of understanding the higher knowledge of consciousness
- How to approach relationships, mind-body wellness, success and spiritual goals through a non-dual lens
“He who knows this Brahman, hidden in the cave of the heart, cuts asunder even here the knot of ignorance.” -Mundaka Upanishads
Debra Maldonado 00:27
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Soul Sessions. I’m Debra Berndt Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. This series we’re starting this week is about the great minds of philosophy.
Robert Maldonado 00:42
We finished up the series on the great minds of psychology, now we’re going a little bit deeper.
Debra Maldonado 00:52
This is going to be a juicy series. If you are watching us on YouTube, please don’t forget to subscribe here, click the button in the corner. If you’re listening to us on podcast services, such as Spotify, iTunes, all the great services, don’t forget to subscribe. We’re going to be covering a lot in the next few weeks. The different philosophers that have impacted our life and probably have impacted yours, maybe you didn’t even know they did. We’re going to start off this series with one of my favorite philosophers — I have many, but Adi Shankara is very influential for me. My book, Like a Spark from Fire, I read something he taught around the spark and fire about his teachings, that’s where I got the inspiration for the title. I’m ready to dive in.
Robert Maldonado 01:51
Let’s start with our approach to philosophy and our approach to the series. We want to place it in the right context, so that people understand our motivation for it. We’re students of the mind, our interest is any philosophy, any psychology, any science, any information on what the nature of the mind is. How it works and what makes it work is important to us. We’re not approaching these philosophers, some of them are associated with religious or spiritual practices, necessarily from that perspective. We honor and respect people that approach them that way. Of course, they’re doing important work. But for us, it is more that we’re interested in their teaching on consciousness, on the mind, on perception, on what the nature of mind and reality is. Adi Shankara has got to be one of the heavy hitters of all time on the nature of consciousness and the mind.
Debra Maldonado 03:09
He was around — they’re not sure because they didn’t have a lot of record keeping back then, but 800 AD, around that time. Buddhism had been flourishing in India for hundreds of years. He was a young philosopher who wanted to reform the Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta to Hinduism because it was falling to the side, people were forgetting about it and going to Buddhism. You know how it is, people want to keep up, keep the popularity of their work. He transformed the teachings into something more approachable for people and applicable to the everyday person, not just the monk. His work is practical. His readings are really practical. That’s what I love about it.
Robert Maldonado 04:00
He died very young, he only lived, I think, to be around 30 years of age, he burned the candle at both ends. By the time he was eight, he was already translating text and writing commentaries on some of the spiritual texts of the times. Of course, he grew up on Vedic texts, the Upanishads. He wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutras, which made him famous in India. Then he traveled throughout India on foot, as a pilgrim, and founded four big centers in different parts of India.
Debra Maldonado 04:48
The book I read, it’s a translation of his work, called In the Light of the Self, Adi Shankara and the yoga of non-dualism. What I loved about this book is that I’ve studied different spiritualities trying to understand these questions that come up about reincarnation and what karma means, all the Eastern ideas. He has interviews, people come into his temple, the book answers all the questions you’d have. That’s why I really loved this book particularly, because it was like, “I’ve always wondered about that, I always wondered about this.” The way he put it in, people would come in and challenge him all the time. I loved it because that’s how you really learn, by challenging these ideas. I think it’s an incredible text. If you get a chance to get it, it’s on Amazon, we can post the link to it in the comments below.
Robert Maldonado 05:49
There’s also some great videos on more of the spiritual perspective of his work, which we’ll also post at the bottom of the video, from some of our friends in the Ramakrishna centers in New York and Boston, the Advaita Vedanta schools. Adi Shankara is considered the foundational philosopher, or spiritual leader, of Advaita Vedanta, which is non-dualistic Vedanta.
Debra Maldonado 06:27
Advaita means not two, non-dual. What does non-dual mean? For people that maybe never heard that term before.
Robert Maldonado 06:38
In the West, we’re used to talking about oneness, but it’s pointing at the same principle. The “not two” refers to spirit and matter, or consciousness and matter, that these are not two phenomena, but one. Of course, he is known not as the originator of this idea. His teachers teacher, Swami Gurupananda, is considered the originator that really brought out this idea from the Upanishads and the Vedas, that the universe is non-dual, that there are not two elements, but only one. That is, of course, consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 07:33
We know now through the recent science, they’re looking at consciousness and starting to discover this weirdness about how everything is connected, we’re all one. There’s something that ties us all together. We’re all the same, made up of the original stuff, that’s the same stuff.
Robert Maldonado 07:56
If you look at quantum mechanics, the way they speak, they seem to be speaking the same language as Gurupananda and Adi Shankara. Everything is dependent on the observer, the observer collapses the wave into particles, creating reality through perception. Of course, the perceiver is also a quantum experience. That’s also in alignment with their philosophy. Adi Shankara has philosophy and teachings that our consciousness is the divine essence of the universe. Let’s back up a little to put ourselves back in ancient India, the eighth century. Buddhism had been flourishing around that time and was starting to decline. Adi Shankara was more from the original Hindu schools, the Brahma monistic approach to the Vedas and the Upanishads, his philosophy started to take shape in relationship to the debates he was having with Buddhist scholars. We see the usefulness of debate. Also one of the characteristics and why we love philosophy is because we’re open to questioning it. It’s not about believing.
Debra Maldonado 09:52
It’s not about “It’s written in the book, so it must be true.” It’s about “This is this philosophy, try to pull it apart.” That’s really what science is about too. Science has theories, then it’s always looking to disprove or reinforce the theory. That’s how we should approach everything. We should have a critical mind versus just accepting what people say. That’s the way it is. To think for ourselves is really important.
Robert Maldonado 10:23
Learning from the Upanishads, which already contain the seeds of the understanding of consciousness in the mind and what reality is, Adi Shankara, of course, through his teachers, as well as the people that taught him the practices of discernment, they were very much into what now became gyana yoga, the understanding that this higher knowledge is the one that enlightens the mind versus some of the other schools that take different approaches. Gyana, this knowledge, what it does is it purifies the mind so that it can perceive its true nature.
Debra Maldonado 11:22
For example, if you read a book on higher knowledge, not a fiction book, it’s purifying your mind just by stimulating that mind with the information. It’s like you’re not learning it, you’re remembering it. When I read the Gita or books like Adi Shankara, it feels like I’m remembering something or like it feels right versus I’m learning something new, I have to really think about it. It’s more or less like I see this and through that self-inquiry, questioning and maybe wrestling with it, you’re purifying your mind because if you just accept it, it’s like putting like ice cream on top of a pie. It makes it a little nicer but what you’re doing is dissecting and sifting out what you really believe and what is the truth. All of us do have the sense of what truth is, but it’s been covered up by our life experience. By reading or studying these deep spiritual ideas we can actually purify the noise and basically uncondition ourselves from the false way we see the world.
Robert Maldonado 13:43
This is from one of the Upanishads, the Manduka Upanishad. It says “He who knows this Brahman, hidden in the cave of the heart, cuts asunder even here the knot of ignorance.” It gets at what you were saying, it’s already hidden in your heart, this higher knowledge, this understanding is already in you because, again, you as the observer of the universe, of the world, are not separate from it, the non dual from it, meaning you are one with it. In examining the world and trying to understand the universe, you have to begin with understanding yourself, going into your heart, to this cave that is in the heart where Brahman is. Brahman here, we can say their understanding was it’s existence, consciousness, and bliss. Those three elements describe what Brahman is. It’s your own existence, your own beingness, meaning you can’t deny this. If somebody asks “Are you aware? Are you existing right now?”, you can’t respond with no.
Debra Maldonado 15:14
Only if you’re in deep sleep, they talk to you, and you don’t answer, that’s probably the only time. But you’re still existing because you wake up and realize there was a time where you weren’t aware. You were aware that you weren’t aware, which means you existed. That’s the twistiness higher knowledge makes because it sounds contradictory. It’s harder to really absorb but once you get it, it’s like it clicks in you, it’s like you remember.
Robert Maldonado 15:48
The ignorance that it’s freeing us from, realizing the core of you, the essence of you, the awareness in you is this higher consciousness that pervades and creates the universe. It’s liberating you from ignorance. Ignorance here, in the way Adi Shankara defines it is not just ignorance of facts about the world, it’s the ignorance of you over-identifying with your body.
Debra Maldonado 16:24
Your personality, your human existence.
Robert Maldonado 16:28
Even your mind, which for us, students of the mind, of course, is mind-blowing.
Debra Maldonado 16:35
Don’t take your mind so seriously.
Robert Maldonado 16:37
Because we’re using the mind in order to decipher and to undo this knot. But at the same time, the higher teachings are saying, you even have to let go of this instrument that’s giving you a way to enlightenment, you can’t go there with it. The mind will not take you there.
Debra Maldonado 17:01
The mind is pretty much run by the ego. Although, there are two parts to our conscious mind. We have the ego mind, it’s that conditioned mind that is watching us, making sure we’re fitting in with society, that little chatter in our head creating stories and drama about our life. Then there’s another part which is the witness, that witness mind is there too. But it’s untouched by that storyteller, the narrator, and the fearful part of ourselves. The only reason we aren’t aware of it is because the ego mind is so loud. This is still the mind, but it’s just a different level of mind that’s closer to our true nature. To know that it’s already there because we’re aware of ourselves, it’s right there. We forget it because it’s quiet, it’s beingness. We pay attention to the noise.
Robert Maldonado 18:03
Adi Shankara defines this Brahman as this universal consciousness that creates everything, including us. There’s nothing outside of it, he says. Then the question is how this individuality I experience comes about. He says that at the core of your individuality is the Atman. The Atman is identical to Brahman, it’s identical to the universal consciousness. But it’s your personalized consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 18:48
That’s where I got my phrase Like a Spark from Fire, because he said that if you think of fire, the sparks that come from the fire are not separate from the fire. They’re made of the same exact substance, but it appears separate, it feels like it’s separate. But he said that you’re like a spark from fire, you’re one with fire, you are the same, even though it feels as though we’re separate because we’re in this body, so we think, “Who am I to be God, who am I to be this universal power?” We go through it as a stage in our life of forgetting who we truly are, we get caught up in the world. This philosophy is about bringing us back home to our true nature. It’s a beautiful process. But I think the most important thing though is the non-duality, because when I first started exploring my personal development journey, I was raised Catholic, all the rules, sinning, going to heaven or going to hell, there’s a lot of duality. Even as a hypnotherapist, it was about making the negative thoughts positive, making your core negative beliefs into positive beliefs, if you think positive and feel good, you’re going to get good things. It was still splitting because I was feeling attached to being positive and pushing away negative. I always feel like it’s rearranging the furniture, you’re not really getting anywhere, you’re just moving the ego around to be more bubbly and happy, but you’re not getting the true transformation that I think is possible for us. When I started learning more about non-duality, my first coach was teaching me non-duality, then I met you, we clicked together because we had the same idea. Everything started to change. I started to see, it’s challenging because we’re so conditioned to think in black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, it takes an extra step for us to stretch to remember what the truth is. Even now, we get caught up in the duality of life, us and them, good and bad.
Robert Maldonado 21:05
It’s because the duality is the appearance of the world. In Vedanta, they often use this idea of a rope that appears to be a snake. They appeare to be two things, the appearance of the snake, meaning the world appears to us in a particular way, like a snake. But in essence, it’s something different. It’s a rope. What we’re perceiving through our senses is an illusion. It’s a function of our fear, of our individuality, or our desire to protect ourselves and to survive. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it, except that you are not perceiving reality. You’re perceiving a false duality.
Debra Maldonado 22:00
Even in perceptual science, they talk about us only focusing on a thumbnail of our world at one time, everything else is blurred. That’s just so crazy when you start to go down the rabbit hole of perception and what our brain is showing us. That’s why we have to question. This type of philosophy helps us question what we’re seeing, what the assumptions we’re making about the world are. A very simple thing is that idea that when something bad happens, or you want something to happen and it doesn’t happen, you judge it, you think that’s bad. But you don’t know, there’s something in there that when you look back at your life, that thing you thought was bad actually was a catalyst for something else. When you start seeing there’s no good or bad, it’s liberating, because then we’re not so caught up in hanging on to only having the good things in life. Whatever shows up, we’re opening it, we’re welcoming it and seeing it in that non-dualistic way, as an opportunity, as a way to know ourselves, what’s showing up, what is our mind doing?
Robert Maldonado 23:15
Our biology, the way our senses are designed, we perceive the world to be separate from us, to be independent of our mind. The perception or the illusion that it creates is that if I close my eyes, or even if I don’t exist, if I die and pass away, the world will still remain the same way I perceive it. Simply I won’t be there to perceive it.
Debra Maldonado 23:54
What if you walk out of a room, is the room still there, if there’s not a mind to perceive it? Does the tree make a sound if it falls in the forest, if no one’s there to hear it?
Robert Maldonado 24:08
Those are the questions that quantum mechanics now is bringing up again to try to understand what the nature of the universe is, what it’s made out of. In the Upanishads, in Adi Shankara’s work, they define this as Maya. It’s an appearance, an illusion. Like the snake appears out of the rope, it appears very real to us and we react to it, we respond to it. But it is essentially an illusion.
Debra Maldonado 24:43
Just like anything in life that we’re afraid of. We have an experience of fear. But the fear didn’t come from that event. It came from our mind interpreting that event. The fear happened in our mind, when we feel pain, or have a painful experience, it didn’t happen in the experience, our mind created the pain. When we realize our mind is creating it, not the thing itself, we can start looking inward versus trying to rearrange the furniture out in the world. We don’t feel pain anymore. Like putting barriers around ourselves, not getting too close to people, living out in the country, staying away from the busyness or avoiding things. We could start to see that when it’s happening, all we have to do is look at our mind to reduce the suffering versus the world to reduce the suffering. The world will always reflect, the mind and the world are the same. The world is going to reflect what’s in your mind. It’s really hard because people bring up the war in Ukraine and Russia, is that in my mind? How does that work? There’s big deep questions we have to ask ourselves, what is the implications of the mind?
Robert Maldonado 26:00
Let’s try to define the non-dualism first, then we can question the implications what it implies. In Western psychology, for example, it goes back to Decart, this idea that the mind must be separate from matter, that there must be two essences or two materials that we’re dealing with. One is invisible to us, we can’t see the mind. But we know it exists because we’re experiencing it. The other one we can observe, touch, weigh, measure, which is matter. Therefore, they came up with a conclusion that there must be two things, two substances we’re dealing with: mind and matter, or spirit and matter, they are two distinct separate entities or ways of existence. Non-dualism says it’s not reality. It appears that way, it appears to be separate, to be two things, spirit and matter, but they are identical. Both are pure awareness, both are consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 27:18
Matter couldn’t exist without spirit, spirit couldn’t see itself without matter or have an experience of itself.
Robert Maldonado 27:27
Not only that, but they are identical. When you’re looking at the world, when you’re looking at the universe matter, you’re seeing Brahman essentially, you’re seeing pure awareness. It’s taking the form of matter, it’s appearing as matter.
Debra Maldonado 27:49
Just like an ocean creates a wave, that wave is still part of the ocean. But because it’s lifting up and has a different shape, we call it a wave. When it goes back down, it’s part of the ocean, it goes back up. It’s like our life, we rise up like a wave, we have this individual experience, then we go back into the ocean, but we never were not the ocean. We just appeared as though we were separate.
Robert Maldonado 28:12
One of the metaphors Adi Shankara uses is the idea of a dream. When you have a dream, you’re experiencing a whole world, you’re experiencing buildings, people, animals perhaps, experiencing a world. When you wake up, you realize it was all in your mind. He says this waking reality is very similar to your mind creating a subjective experience of the world and appearing to you as the universe. But in essence, it is consciousness, taking the form of the universe.
Debra Maldonado 29:03
We have our own individual perceptions. Even if you look at your family and siblings, everyone had a different childhood, everyone had different parents, but we all came from the same place. That’s what happens in Maya. I love the idea that we’re born with a non-dual spirit, the Atman. It’s this intelligence, this wisdom, then we have this body and get lost in the world. It’s about going back and remembering.
Robert Maldonado 29:36
The way it happens, he says, the individual Atman, the consciousness within you, the pure awareness in you, is covered over by the sensory experience of the world. Your visual senses are giving you information that makes it appear as if there is a universe out there. But in essence what you are experiencing is your own consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 30:06
It doesn’t mean the world isn’t real, it’s all an illusion in a way. I love the two distinctions of the apparent reality and the absolute reality. The apparent reality is this appearance of things in our world. It’s still a type of reality but it’s not the absolute reality. I love those two distinctions. We’re not thinking “I could go and jump off a bridge, it’s not real. It’s just a fantasy we’re in.” It isn’t, it’s a reality, but it’s not the true reality. It’s not the absolute reality. We live in the world as if this world is the absolute reality, I got to cling on to life, I got to get the most out of this life before going to leave a legacy behind my persona, we can make an impact on the world, all these great vision. Then that’s all there is, the world has all the power. I think this brings us back to not that the world doesn’t feel as exciting, you can still be in the world but you’re seeing it for its nature versus getting lost in it because it’s stressful and miserable, to forget who you really are. You can have both. It’s not abandoning the material and the Maya, you’re having both, non-dual.
Robert Maldonado 31:42
If you ask why we suffer, it gets to the nature of human suffering. You mistake the unreal, the appearance of the world for the real, you think matter must be reality. If you ask the most people on the planet right now “What do you think is real? What can you show me that you know for certain is real?”, they will usually point to material things, for them that is the reality. They want to touch it, they want to see it, they want to weigh it and measure it. That makes intuitive sense from the perceptual illusion that the world creates for us, because it appears to us to be solid, and consistent. But if you study it a little bit more, you realize that the appearance of the world is always in flux, it’s always changing. Even the things that appear very solid, like rocks, iron, steel, the molecules, we know now, are constantly vibrating, changing, transforming into something else.
Debra Maldonado 33:08
Even our bodies, they change every seven years, every cell of our body. Who are we if we identify as this body is mind? The body you had seven years ago doesn’t exist anymore. You’re carrying on that conditioning of the mind, that self concept that you’re bringing into the future every day.
Robert Maldonado 33:32
We’re betting on the wrong horse, because we’re saying, if material is reality, the best I can do is invest my time and energy in obtaining and counting on material things to give me happiness.
Debra Maldonado 33:51
Make sure I have enough in the bank account, I have a good credit score, I have the house, I have a fancy car. For a lot of people, it’s about survival, “my bills are paid this month”, there’s some peace in that. It’s all external, seeking the external world, this constantly moving world for some security that we need. There’s no security in the world, that’s the scary part. When you read this work, those of you who are new to the non-duality concept, it’s scary in a way. Everything you know about what makes you secure, the ego loves having to label things as good or bad, this is the way things are, here’s a moral code I can follow. When you start examining this, you get a little wonky in your mind because you’re like “What I thought was real is not real.” We’re trying to get a sense of where to find that absolute again that you absolutely thought was real, but it was not.
Robert Maldonado 35:05
There is an absolute, of course. That’s the beauty of Shankara’s work. He’s saying that in correcting the misperception of mistaking the unreal for the real, you’ll gain true knowledge, liberation from suffering, even from death. This is the deeper implications of his message that it’s not only about an intellectual understanding of what the world is and what your mind is. Realizing the true nature of your being liberates you from the bondage of limitations.
Debra Maldonado 35:54
This is a great segue to this little blurb I’m going to read from the book In the Light of the Self. Alistair Shearer was the author that translated it. It’s a little story, it sounds familiar because it’s very common archetypal story. “There was once a prince who was discarded by his parents at birth and brought up in a family of a fowler. Unaware of his true descent, he grew up imagining himself to be a fowler and pursued this occupation when he grew up.” I don’t know what a fowler is, I think it’d be like a shepherd. “But it chanced that a very compassionate man, who knew the real situation, came by the fowler’s house one day and told the young prince the true state of affairs, appraised of the reality.” The young fowler immediately abandoned his hut and moved into the palace to take up his real duties as a monarch. Like that, when a man living in ignorance and suffering is told by a teacher that he is, in reality, nothing but the absolute, but has been living in exile, so to speak, like a spark separated from a fire, then he realizes his true status and abandons identification with the limited self and all of its miseries.” We’ve all heard that story, the Lion King, there’s so many stories of the prince who didn’t know he was a prince. Hercules, a lot of Greek myths are very similar. But it’s true, we forget the magnificence of who we are, we think we’re this little tiny cork bobbing on the ocean, hailing and wailing about the storms and the waves crashing us, helpless, but we’re really this incredible power. We’re connected to everything. This is a grandiose idea. How can we bring it down?What implications does it have on us in our everyday life, that non-dual philosophy?
Robert Maldonado 38:14
If you think about the human world, we move in this world of relationships to other people, work, we’re always having to do something to sustain our life. Health and wellness, we’re always concerned about our mind and body to make sure that it’s healthy and operating well. Then, of course, we have these philosophical and spiritual questions: what is the meaning of my life? Those four areas, if you think, what is this non-dualistic understanding of the world and my mind? What can you teach me? How can it liberate me from human suffering we experience? One of the Upanishads says “What delusion, what sorrow can there be for him who beholds the oneness of the Jeeva and the Brahman?” The Jeeva means the individual self, or the sense of our individuality, and the Brahman is the universal, non-dual consciousness. It’s showing us that everything we are experiencing is us. It’s our consciousness, our awareness, it’s arising within our awareness. Very similar to the way a dream is experienced during the night when we’re asleep. We’re creating a whole universe, a whole drama of our life. But once we wake up, we are freed from it. We can still experience it, enjoy it, marvel at it, but we understand its nature. It is the same principle in this life. Whatever we’re experiencing, we can still experience it, we can be like in a lucid dream where we are aware and appreciating it. But we’re understanding its true nature, I’m not necessarily limited by the appearance of it, I’m not really hurt by the things that appear to hurt me, I’m not bound to the things that appeared to bind me and limit me.
Debra Maldonado 40:37
If you think about the idea of psychological projection, we’re projecting our mind onto everything. When we think about people that trigger us, whether you’re doing individuation, just remember that you’re seeing a situation through your own filter, someone else sees that same situation from another filter. Who is right? There’s no right or wrong, two people can have the same exact experience and have two different inner experiences of it. It really comes down to it’s all in our mind. The truth is not that you’re right or they’re right, but there’s an absolute reality, which is that neither of you are seeing reality. You’re seeing a tiny piece, a glimpse of what is true, but you’re not seeing the whole picture. Studying this type of philosophy helps you purify your mind from the delusions that keep you unhappy. Things that used to trigger me or get me upset, or I’d worry about, I don’t worry about them as much because I go back to— even someone who can be really annoying or someone hurtful, you can go and know that there’s a part of me in them somewhere, I’m seeing myself in them. Also there’s something deep within them that is pure and untouched by life that has always been there. To be able to see people beyond what they’re presenting or what your mind is thinking they’re presenting, really talking to them soul to soul would make a huge impact on relationships, on the way we treat people in the world. The possibilities people feel to live their life, not be afraid of other people or what other people think. There’s so much freedom in that. From a global scale, the wars, the countries projecting on each other, who’s right and who’s wrong, if world leaders can understand these deeper philosophies, things would dramatically change in our life. It doesn’t mean it’d be perfect, but I think there’d be less suffering.
Robert Maldonado 42:57
It put things in the right perspective. This is from the Gita, it says “As a kindle fire reduces wood to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions from material activities.” Reactions from material activities, what it’s talking about is conditioning. This is the purification that happens through gaining true knowledge, gaining a true understanding of the nature of consciousness, understanding that the appearance of the world, the way it appears to you, you’re making that. Now people read it as “I didn’t wish to experience these things. How can you say I created it?” We’re not talking about the ego. When you experience yourself as an individual, you’re experiencing your ego, not the true awareness, not the pure awareness in you, not the Brahman in you. Therefore, that’s not what we mean and not what Adi Shankara meant. He means the the true self in you is allowing all these experiences to arise. Your lack of understanding is the one that is causing your individual ego to suffer because it’s essentially misreading the whole situation.
Debra Maldonado 44:37
If you think about it, there are terrible things that can happen to you. This is what’s going on in people’s minds. Let’s say, this terrible thing happened to you. Your ego makes it feel that you’re permanently damaged because of that terrible thing, you’re always going to suffer because of that terrible thing. That is the mind creating that. A lot of us don’t know how to let go of our suffering from a past experience because there’s something our ego wants to hang on to so it doesn’t happen again. It’s like we’re hurting ourselves versus seeing the experience for its nature, understanding. This world has a lot of not nice people sometimes acting out of their own conditioning. But to understand that we don’t have to carry this our whole life, that we’re not permanently scarred by things. It feels that way, if we think we’re permanently scarred, that’s what we’ll create. We’re creating that versus there is a way out. A lot of times many of people I’ve worked with over the years define themselves by something that happened to them, that identity takes over, they can’t be anything else. They feel like someone took something away from them, as a possibility, because of that event. Apparently, it wasn’t there for them or someone who had passed or some terrible thing that happened. We get to decide what we want to make of it. That’s the liberation, nothing hits our true nature like that. The true self can’t be harmed, can’t be damaged. If we know that the things that occurred in the world are from the ego, this moving constant flux in the mind of the ego, that there’s something beneath us that wasn’t touched by it, and that’s our true nature, that’s the absolute reality, that would liberate a lot of people. They can move on and not feel limited because maybe they had the wrong parents, they grew up in the wrong neighborhood, or something bad happened to them that they can’t overcome, even illness. We can transcend anything if we have the knowledge of what reality is.
Robert Maldonado 46:53
This is a delicate point. A lot of students of the mind come to us separating the mental experience in our lives from pure consciousness and pure awareness because in the West, we’re taught that the mental experience is consciousness. In Adi Shankara’s work, he’s not defining the mind in that sense. The mind, although it’s calculating, perceiving, processing, it’s not consciousness. Consciousness is separate, it is the field in which the mind arises, where then the human brain is doing its calculations, its perceptions, and its experiencing. At the end of the day, the awareness, the consciousness is untainted by the human experience. That understanding then gives us the right perception that we can’t be damaged by human experience. If we identify with it, of course, we’re going to feel traumatized and damaged like so many people. The idea of trauma is so popular right now, that we’re traumatized. Of course, from the perspective of our individual Jeeva, or the ego, incarnation, individuality, it feels like these experiences have damaged us, have traumatized us. But if you have this deeper understanding of the non-dual nature of existence, you see that the pure awareness in us can’t be damaged.
Debra Maldonado 48:58
It’s an invincible feeling that no matter what happened to you, you can create your life. Carl Jung said that, no matter what happened to you, you’re free to create your life. This knowledge purifies the mind from the ego thinking, bad and wrong, victimhood and aggressors, us versus them, good and bad, right and wrong, to something much deeper and more profound that’s within us, that can give us the strength to go and say “You do have a passion for helping those who’ve suffered in the same way you have. That’s great, but you want to help them by purifying their mind, by letting them know, inspiring them that they can create, that that’s not a life sentence for them, whatever happened to them.” We don’t want to minimize it, of course, but it’s not unsurmountable. That’s really a freedom you can give people. If you work at purifying your mind through that experience, you can help others purify theirs.
Robert Maldonado 50:03
Last but not least, there’s a beautiful quote from the Isa Upanishads. It says, “He, or the person that obtains immortality through knowledge”, it means higher knowledge, of course, not the ordinary knowledge of the world, but the understanding of the true nature of yourself. You become immortal because you’re now identifying with the true source which is indestructible, unbreakable. There’re terms or concepts in Western psychology or Western philosophy that talk about the soul in those terms. That is similar. The great difference we see in Adi Shankara’s work and Vedanta in general is the idea that you can have it now, you are that now, you don’t wait to die to experience oneness and non-dual state.
Debra Maldonado 51:12
Or earn your way to heaven, heaven can be here right now in this moment. We’re excited to share more of this topic with you on future podcasts. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the channel. We’d love to have you here every week if you’re here on YouTube. If you’re on Spotify, iTunes and all the podcast services, make sure you click Subscribe and get our next episode, where we’re going to continue our series on the great minds of philosophy.