The Vedanta Way: Is the Wave Separate from the Ocean?

“When one now deeming oneself the mind and wandering lost amid phenomena, wakes up from this dream-spectacle and re-emerges in the Self and stands as That, this is the inward-ness of yoga true.“ Ramana Maharshi

Are you living the life you were meant to live? Is there balance between giving and receiving, doing and being, thinking and feeling? Do you long for intimacy, appreciation, love, and acceptance? Are you content within each moment, grateful for every day? Essentially, are you happy?

What most will find, if we’re really being honest, is that our happiness is fleeting and we are living in ignorance. We simply don’t know who we are. How can we be happy if we don’t know who we are?

Are we this aging body that we want to keep looking young, thin or fit? Are we the emotions we feel but repress because they’re just too painful? Are we this constant stream of thoughts and images that appear and disappear within our minds?

Are we chasing the next object that will make us happy – the right career, relationship, or material item? Do we live with fear of success, failure, intimacy, abandonment, being honest and that we are not enough?

What if yoga, in all its iterations: hatha, ashtanga, karma, and bhakti, were simply a preparation?

What if there was a teaching that brought lasting happiness and total fulfillment?

Vedanta, or path of knowledge, offers a systematic process of Self-realization that has been refined through the ages by thousands of rishis, sages and mystics. The Vedas are the original texts of the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and yoga philosophy, dating back 10,000 years orally. The Vedas were revealed to the Rishis and were the source texts for the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, Brahma Sutras and comprise the primary texts of Vedanta. All of these scriptures are complete teachings which reveal a path of awakening to the true nature of self – that we are non-dual, infinite, consciousness, love and bliss.

What is real? Vedanta shares that if something changes, it is not real. We know the truth to be the truth because it does not change. Two plus two is always four, regardless of who does the math. If our body, emotions and thoughts continually change, they must be relative and therefore not the deepest truth.

We come one step closer to the truth by asking the question: who is the one who senses, feels and thinks? There is something that animates inner and outer objects of experience, a subject. The question of all questions is, who or what is this subject? Until we know the answer, beyond the shadow of all doubt, happiness will be nothing more than a transient experience.

One day there was a young little wave playing by the shore. When a larger wave from deep out in the ocean came near, the little wave asked the big wave, “have you seen the ocean?” The wise old wave answered, “no but I hear its vast and deep.”

Most of us believe we are individuals that are born, have a variety of experiences and then die but is this the deepest truth? Is the wave ever really separate from the ocean? Can a wave even be a wave without the ocean? We as humans have temporarily lost our connection with the very consciousness that makes being human possible. This disconnect is the root of disease and unhappiness.

Suffering arises because of our identification with body, emotion and thought. We suffer because we believe we are limited and that objects and experiences will bring us happiness. But if they did, wouldn’t happiness remain once we obtained the objects of our desire? If the objects themselves contained happiness, wouldn’t these objects provide happiness to all, equally? Grandma would be thrilled with the latest Nike shoes and little Johny would enjoy the ballet.

What if believing that objects bring happiness was a grand mis-perception? Vedanta teaches that it’s not objects that bring us happiness but rather the momentary cessation of fear and desire, that reveals our true nature – infinite bliss. We might find ourselves much further along the path to lasting happiness by addressing the roots of our fears and desires, rather than chasing shiny objects, that once obtained, become dull.
What if instead of chasing objects and experiences, we inquired into the nature of our karma (the laws of cause and effect), our vasanas (tendencies), samskaras (compulsions), and remained unmoving in the face of our fears and desires?

What if by walking upon this path of knowledge, we came to know that happiness is not something we can find outside ourselves but rather who we are? In realizing ourselves as non-dual, infinite, radiant awareness, how could we ever again believe that an object or experience could bring us lasting happiness?

Self-Inquiry does not remove nor judge experience (objects and phenomena), it simply reveals our true nature from which all objects and phenomena arise. There is no problem with ego, mind, objects or experiences, as long as we are established in the shining light of awareness and they are in alignment with dharma. Does the sun judge that which it shines upon, does the ocean struggle with the appearance of waves?

By realizing the truth of Self – infinite, non-dual consciousness, we relinquish our attachment and identification to the drama of our lives. How can we ever blame another if the other is simple us? How can we ever believe we are a victim, if the victim and the perpetrator are one? How can we ever violate another, if by violating another, we are only violating ourselves?

James Swartz, in How to Attain Enlightenment, likened our waking state to the dream time. All the actors, drama and action in our waking state, like in the dream state, are simply aspects of us. Our karma, vasanas, samskaras, fears and desires are not the truth of who we are. Vedanta teaches us how to wake up from the dream of our lives.

We have been entranced by the 3-D movie of our lives but with the knowledge of Vedanta and the process of Self-Inquiry, we compassionately dis-identify from the play of light and shadow projected onto the screen of life. With further study on the nature of self, we move back a few rows in the theater and begin to dissolve the trance of passing phenomena. We bring attention to what is real and never changes. Eventually, we loose interest in the drama and screen all together, and turn to face the light of the projector. We come to realize that we are the light of consciousness from which all form and phenomena are created.

When we awaken from the dream of our lives, we come to realize that many of the things we thought would bring us happiness: security, pleasure and virtue, just don’t work. They are aspects of our limited, egoic, identity and not the truth of self – being, awareness, bliss. When used with the support of a teacher, Vedanta provides the means to dissolve the shackles of samsara (suffering) and reveal that we were always free and that happiness is our true nature.

“The main point to grasp is that you have projected unto yourself a world of your own imagination, based on memories, on desires and fears, and that you have imprisoned yourself in it. Break the spell and be free.” Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

In great gratitude to the Rishis (seers) of old and new, who for thousands of years have tested and refined the science of awakening to the truth of Self, and to James Swartz for sharing the shining light of Vedanta with great clarity.

Eaden Shantay owns True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, CO with his wife and partner Deva. True Nature is an invitation to learn, heal, love, be and serve. Learn more at

This article was published in March 2015, OmYoga Magazine, an International Yoga publication.

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