When we don’t get what we want, we feel agitated and when we do get what we want, it’s never enough. The ego wants more, better, different!
Liberation from the ego’s mantra begins with understanding the misconception that we are lacking and not whole, and that happiness can only be found by obtaining or experiencing something outside ourselves.
How would our lives be different if we approached each moment from wholeness instead of lack?
When the light of consciousness shines through the mind of the individual, action is a natural byproduct. We cannot not act, it’s impossible. Even sitting in a chair or sleeping is a form of action. Therefore, it’s not a question of doing or not doing but rather how we act that affects the quality of life and the future karma we create.
There are several preliminary teachings of Vedanta that can help us dissolve the ego’s mantra and the suffering results when we live by it: 1. Happiness is not in objects, it’s in you, 2. Life is a zero sum game, which means the field of creation is always seeking balance and for every gain there is a loss, and 3. The results of our actions are not up to us. This last one is particularly challenging for the ego.
Looking deeper into the first three teachings of traditional Vedanta: If happiness were in objects wouldn’t we remain happy as long as we held the object of our desire? Yet our contentment fades once an object is acquired. If joy was in the object or experience, wouldn’t we all gain the same level of satisfaction from a particular object or experience? Yet Grandma enjoys playing cards and little Jonny loves skateboarding.
With respect to the zero sum nature of life, a better job is desired but once obtained, we have more responsibilities to contend with. We feel lonely and seek a relationship but then there are new challenges to contend with – less freedom and more anxiety. We want a bigger house and more toys but then we have to spend more time, energy and money taking care of everything.
Regarding the results of action, if they where really up to us, wouldn’t we already have everything we ever wanted? Vedanta teaches that the results of action are up to the creator of the field, Isvara or God if you will. However, rather than an old man with a beard sitting in a chair in heaven, think of Isvara as the most intelligent feedback loop ever created.
When action is taken, Isvara considers the needs of whole when providing results in order to maintain a zero sum, i.e. balance in the field. The more our actions are aligned with personal dharma (life purpose) and the laws of the field (like do no harm), the more likely the results of actions will make sense and bring contentment. When dharma is not adhered to, emotional and mental suffering results.
These three teachings alone, when unfolded properly and understood, lay the foundation for the practice of karma yoga, a practice that neutralizes the negative impacts of past action (karma), clearing the mind to assimilate the knowledge that we are already whole and good and no object or experience can complete us. Karma yoga does not require props, classes or additional time. It is the attitude with which we take action.
Karma yoga says, “I am grateful for this life and it’s many gifts and therefore I dedicate my actions to the field. With my present level knowledge about myself and the field, I take the best and highest actions with NO attachment to the results. I then receive the fruits of my actions as prasad, a gift, enjoying what is good and learning from the challenges.”
To learn more about karma yoga click here.
Understanding spiritual concepts is an important first step on the journey of self realization but applying the teachings to our lives, through daily practice, is where the rubber meets the road. Most of our emotional discomfort does not come from an unhappy childhood as many believe but rather from not getting what we want, when we want it.
The foundation of Vedanta is that life is not what it appears to be. By default we are hypnotized by Mithya, this apparent realm of objects and experiences and miss Satya, the non-dual consciousness and existence that is our essential nature. We think meaning is in experience and therefore we chase is but in time, through practice, we come to know that we are the meaning and joy we have been searching for.
I used to think happiness came from the right mix of sex, food, relationship, entertainment, affirmation, money, and success but now I know different. I have learned that contentment, meaning and purpose have nothing to do with objects and experience and everything to do with understanding who I am and how this mandala of creation works.
Instead of digging shallow well after shallow well, hopping from teacher to teacher, and teaching to teaching, Vedanta offers a final resting place for the disenfranchised seeker. It’s sole purpose is moksha or freedom from the bondage of our past karma.
A good and happy life is well within our grasp!
Thank you to James Swartz for sharing the teachings of traditional Vedanta in such a profound way. Please pick up his book, “The Essence of Enlightenment.” It will rock your world in a beautiful way.
Ongoing Gatherings with Eaden Shantay:
SATSANG/MEDITATION, Wednesdays, 7pm at True Nature.
DHARMA TALK, A Vedanta Study Group, 1st & 3rd Thursdays Noon at True Nature.
For more information on traditional Vedanta visit Steady Wisdom.