In Vedanta we often hear the expression that the Scripture acts as a reflecting mirror in which we can see ourselves, our psychology, the world and the creator of the world in a unique light.
If you try to see your eyes without the aid of a mirror you cannot do it, even though you know you have eyes because you can see. To ‘see’ one’s self is analgous to trying to see the eyes without the aid of a mirror because the self, awareness, is beyond perception. Because awareness somehow knows that its identification with perception obscures its appreciation of itself it evolved Vedanta. Vedanta is the ‘third eye,’ the mirror that allows the self to know itself…assuming that it has forgotten who or what it is.
When we examine the word mirror of Vedanta we do not realize it is actually just a mirror. It seems to be just another philosophy, a bunch of words trying to tell us something, not what it actually is, a revelation of our nature. We think it is talking to us about who we are when it is actually showing us who we are. Using the mirror of Vedanta in this way we gain indirect knowledge of who we are but not direct knowledge. Indirect knowledge is “I know awareness, I experience awareness, I am enlightened.” Direct knowledg is “I am awareness.”
If scripture is talking to us, it is inevitable that we will interpret its words. If the mirror of Vedanta works properly we need not interpret. The vision, the vision of non-duality, will automatically interpret reality for us and we will find ourselves free of the need to change things or change ourselves.
The words of scripture only function as revelation when they are weilded by a qualified teacher trained in the method of unfoldment. Talking about the self from one’s own personal experience may induce an epiphany but it does not amount to a teaching. Self ignorance is hard wired. Only a comprehensive systematic means of knowledge, like Vedanta, can erase it completely. Epiphanies may erase it temporarily but it will come back with a complete means of knowledge.
The presence of scripture and a skilful teacher are not enough, however. The student needs to be qualified. The student metaphor is unfortunate because it implies study and our idea of study is reading and interpreting what we have read according to our beliefs and opinions. Study may be useful for information but it does not transform one’s vision.
The other point that has to be very clear is that such a “scriptural mirror” is only available to a qualified mind which is listening. Just because a person can read Vedanta books and attend Vedanta classes does not mean they are studying Vedanta. Vedanta is an enquiry into the nature of who and what we really are using the scriptures as a reflecting medium IN WHICH who and what we really are can be clearly seen. It is not reading Vedanta books and listening to Vedanta talks in the act of acquiring Vedantic information. Such information does not transform our vision of ourselves, the world and God.
The qualifications that Vedanta requires for the means of knowledge to work basically boil down to maturity. A mature person is a dispassionate person and a dispassionate person can set aside his or her beliefs and opinions and listen with an open mind.
But for self knowledge to work its magic, it needs to be assimilated. If the mind is open the mind quickly reaps the benefits. But if the mind is passionate and attached to its belief and opinions it will think it knows what is being communicated and it will not assimilate it…at best partly digest it. Instead of listening to the words it will listen to its reaction to the words and form concepts about the self. An immature mind ‘gets it’ quickly but not always understand. What passes for understanding is an interpretation of what it hears…according to its vasanas. Hearing is not listening.
Listening is the basic spiritual practice of Vedanta. Actions that flow from fully assimilated knowledge liberate. Those that flow from interpreted knowledge bind. When rajas dominates the mind, it jumps the gun. It takes the interpreted meaning to be the real meaning and misses the hidden meaning.
Studying the words in Vedantic texts by ourselves is of no use to us in terms of a clear doubt free vision of ourselves. In this situation the words do not become a reflecting medium in which to see ourselves. They will just be verbal objects of our senses and gasped in our minds as philosophical constructs. There is no discovery of an entirely new vision here there is only the entertaining of new ideas. An adding of more information to an already overloaded mind.
If I don’t understand the scriptures as a reflecting medium in which I can clearly see myself Vedanta study will become boring because I will feel I have heard it all before and I will wish to hear something new. The growth of clarity is not a boring thing. It is like a photo being developed. The same words may be used again and again but when they are used as a reflecting medium the picture becomes clearer and clearer. This is a deeply meaningful process if it is in fact occurring.
When I understand the role of the scripture as a reflecting medium, I will value the scriptures in the right way. I will willingly expose my mind to the vision that is revealed through them again and again and look in wonder at the emergence of new and unforeseen clarity that begins to embrace my life and lifts me beyond the sufferings of ordinary human life.
Words as words are nothing. Conveying ideas as ideas, even Vedantic ones, is meaningless because it just adds the burden of new information and will give the false notion that you understand when in fact you are more ignorant as before because you now think you really know something. Understanding Vedantic words and ideas as words and ideas has nothing to do with Vedantic study. It is only the unfolding vision the counts in Vedanta nothing else. This is not possible without a qualified teacher trained in the method of unfoldment. This method consists of skilfully using the Sastras as a mirror in which the Self is clearly seen.
Visit www.shiningworld.com to learn more about James Swartz and traditional Vedanta.