"After our youngest son had seen Star Wars for the twelfth or thirteenth time, I said, "Why do you go so often?" He said, "For the same reason you have been reading the Old Testament all of your life." He was in a new world of myth." Bill Moyers, interview with Joseph Campbell






















































































VEDANTA KESARIThe Break of a Rosy Dawn | Editorial | April 2004  









               The Break of a Rosy Dawn




     At the end of a deep, dark night when the eastern horizon begins to turn pink, it heralds the arrival of a new day, and thereby the beginning of a fresh chapter of possibilities and opportunities in life. It is the time to wake up and get ready to confront the challenges that life flings at us. When the dawn breaks, scattering the gentle rays of the rising sun all over, it is a moment of fresh hopes and aspirations. It is an invitation to rise up, change our ways, if need be, and march towards our cherished goal with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.


     Something similar but of much greater and far-reaching significance happens in the lives of many who wake up to a new reality in life. It is like meeting with someone on the way, who, though a stranger to you, manages to steal away all your attention, time and even urgency of your journey, and gives an altogether new direction and sense of purpose to your life. When this awakening takes place, suddenly, as if without much notice, one finds oneself face to face with a fact which had been, till then, neither important nor appealing to oneself. Such an inner encounter often leaves one bewildered. One feels puzzled, wanting to change one's life-style in a way that would reflect this inner revolution. One can neither set it aside nor rest content without doing something concrete; it ignites a sense of urgency in the mind, which catches him off guard, as it were.


     Thus begins the spiritual life. Thus begins a life oriented to a higher ideal. It begins with this inner awakening. This phenomenon of spiritual awakening is one of the most intriguing facts of life. Though it is an event that happens rather rarely, it does keep occurring in the lives of many men and women all over the world. To those blessed few who experience it, what startles them is the mystery of its absence till then. They wonder as to where was it 'hiding' while they groped in the dark alleys of different pursuits of life. On the other hand, to those who are sleeping, the awakened ones become a puzzle. 'What has happened to them? Why this change in them?' they ask with disbelief and surprise.


     Why, when and how does a man wake up spiritually is largely unknown. What is known, and what the common human faculty of expression can afford to express is much meagre and inadequate compared to what really transpires. A quiet process, invisible to our eyes, goes on deep in our mind, making us ready for this momentous moment. And one fine day, comes a catalyst: a chance meeting with a person, or reading or listening to a lecture or going to a holy place or some such happening, making it burst forth. One feels ushered into a new world, then.








     In living a higher life, inner awakening is the very first step. Psychologically speaking, awakening means becoming aware of something higher, and recognizing its presence and importance. Awakening is essentially an act of discovering what remained hidden, though it was right within one's reach all along, and realizing its worth and usefulness. It is, as if, something that had been kept in a cold storage, is brought out, and you ask, often with a tinge of regret, 'How is it that I had never seen it before, though it was so easily accessible!'


     'The millions are awake enough for physical labour,' wrote Henry David Thoreau, the great American Transcendalist, 'but only one in a million for effective intellectual exertion; only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.'(1) Indeed, the majority of people remain asleep to spiritual life; they are awakened only to the world of senses and ego. They are awake enough for 'physical labour', and to them life means labouring for a comfortable physical existence. They live contented with the immediate results of their labours - food, clothing, shelter and security for a rainy day. Engrossed as they are in their struggle for existence, their minds are unfit as yet for conceiving any higher purpose of life. They are, what Sri Ramakrishna calls, the baddhas, the bound ones.


     But there are people who wake up to the joy and satisfaction of an intellectual life. In the ladder of evolution, they stand elevated above those whose life is focused on only fulfilling their physical needs. Intellectual awakening drives them to read books, or travel to places where their intellectual hunger can be appeased. They read voraciously, or attend learned lectures or participate in intellectual discussions. They are intellectually hungry and any hunger by definition, needs appeasement.


     Only a few fortunate ones, whose time has come, truly wake up to the world of spirit. The ideal of spiritual perfection, somehow - they do not know how - begins to appeal to them. They are the people whom Sri Krishna describes in the Gita as 'one among thousands' (Manushyanam Sahasreshu, Gita, 7.3). Such people cannot sit idle, spiritually speaking. A strong taste for spiritual life develops in them. They are not bothered what others talk of this change in them. Nor are they unwilling to be labelled 'peculiar' by others. A kind of inner boldness to explore the unknown realm of spirituality comes upon them. Such people, however, are small in number, very small indeed. But those few are sufficient to bring blessings to humanity. For who brings the greatest good to mankind? One who is awakened spiritually. Thus awakened, he sees everything in its perspective and that is the most vital prerequisite to do good to others. Neither good nor evil disturbs his mind. His little self becomes un-important to him. And, being freed from the shackles of his little 'I', he is able to see the bigger 'Thou' and enjoy serving him.








     Spiritual awakening brings about a sense of holiness or sanctity in life. When a person sets on a journey to the Holy One, called by various names in different religions, he naturally begins to lose all that is unholy. 'As a man moves towards the east,' says Sri Ramakrishna, 'the west is left behind.' Just as one cannot travel towards east and west simultaneously, holiness and un-holiness cannot coexist in the same person. An unholy man cannot be holy at the same time and vice versa. By holiness is meant the sense of oneness with God as exhibited in one's life. The more one feels nearer to God, the farther one goes away from his basal instincts of greed, lust, anger, jealousy and so on. When the mind is thus freed from these bondages, a sense of light pervades one's whole being, a sense of being one with the inherent divinity comes; holiness is what it is generally called.


     One does not wake up to spiritual life as long as one has not exhausted one's desire for pleasures of the senses. Desires cast a veil of darkness over the mind, stealing away its ability to perceive the spiritual reality. Just as at night, the existence of sun looks false and unappealing, similarly when desires cloud the mind, the existence of a spiritual reality looks false and unappealing. To a man, on the other hand, who is awakened, one need not tell him to do spiritual practices. Sri Ramakrishna illustrates this through a parable: a child was going to bed, and said, 'Mummy, if I feel hungry, please wake me up', and the mother said, 'I need not do that. Your hunger itself will wake you up.'(2) Having broken his slumber, the awakened man naturally feels the importance of spiritual striving. The night of laziness and indifference to spiritual illumination has come to an end for him. The Gita (2.69) speaks of the man who has reached the ideal of spiritual life thus: 'That which is night to all beings, in that the self-controlled man awakes. That in which all beings are awake, is night to the Self-seeing muni.' Spiritual awakening is the first step towards this supreme state of being awakened. This marks the beginning of spiritual journey.


     Why do people, generally, not wake up to spiritual life? As stated earlier, until one has 'tasted' the enjoyments the world offers, one does not feel any inclination towards God. When one has gone through the promise of happiness which senses offer, and seen through their futility, one begins one's search for a higher experience. One has to get conclusively convinced that what one is looking for or is ultimately working for is not to be found in the 'world' but in the state of consciousness that experiences everything in the world. It is learning to reach our divine core within and finding our joy there. It is searching for the right thing in the right place. Generally we need experience either by our efforts or by observing others to come to this inner conviction. The Mundakopanishad (I.ii.12) speaks of it in this way: 'Let a wise one, after having examined all these worlds that are gained by works, acquire freedom from desire; nothing that is eternal can be produced by what is not eternal.' Examining a thing means to see its pros and cons, weighing it on the scale of experience and seeing how much good it has to offer. Examination of this kind leads to the development of the ability to discriminate, the power of Viveka.


     In one's state of ignorance about the real nature of man, which is divine, and a fountain-head of infinite bliss, one seeks fulfilment through satisfying one's desire for enjoyment. Desires themselves are born of ignorance of our divine nature, which is in fact ever-fulfilled (purnam). This ignorance produces in us a feeling of inadequacy. This in turn drives us to make ourselves complete and self-sufficient. We thus seek fulfilment, which presumes an inner spiritual lacuna. This feeling of inadequacy, though illusionary, is the breeding ground for desires; and thus we are asleep to the spiritual reality.


     Every desire once it is born, craves for fulfilment. This craving is the cause for life itself. That is how and why the Indian spiritual tradition believes, man is born and reborn. As one birth is insufficient to fulfil one's desires, considering the ever-rising number of desires in mind, man keeps taking birth again and again. Fulfilling one desire only gives birth to another desire. It is only, after a long time (no one knows how long) when one is disillusioned that one turns to God, or his own divine nature in order to obtain ever-lasting happiness and security. 'At the end of many births, the man of wisdom takes refuge in Me, realizing that all this is Vasudeva (the innermost self). Very rare is that great soul,' says Krishna (Gita, 7.19). Many births means many experiences that one undergoes while fulfilling one's desires for enjoyment.








     Now, if spiritual awakening be so un-common, and if it comes only when one has undergone a lot of experience, what is the way out for those who are intellectually convinced but feel no deep urge to take to spiritual life? The wise counsel given by spiritual masters in this matter is to live a life of moral discipline and integrity, alongside doing one's chosen spiritual disciplines with regularity and devotion. As one religiously follows this counsel, one's mind slowly gets freed from deep-rooted habits of cravings for the goodies that the world offers. This sets the stage for awakening.


     Holy company, i.e. associating oneself with those who are spiritually inclined, is also a great and effective aid to quicken the process. When, once asked by a devotee that how one can develop love for God, Sri Ramakrishna replied, 'By being in holy company.' Holy men think of God. To them God is real, a something that they live with, aim at and commune with. Their life indicates a sense of 'reality' that they have as regards God. When one lives with them, one as well gains a taste for spiritual life that slowly works its way through the inner world of our being.


     When we wake up in the morning, we naturally ask ourselves, 'What is my today's schedule of things that I have to attend to?' And having asked thus, we plan up and start our day. A man who is spiritually woken up also asks himself, 'What are the steps I should take to reach the spiritual goal that has dawned upon my mind?' He thus begins his spiritual strivings. When one wants to plant a tree in a soil, one has to first make it suitably clear and ready. One may have to remove a lot of weeds that may have been growing there. In spiritual life too, a lot of de-weeding of inner life takes place before the plant of spirituality can take firm roots. Many of our pet notions and attachments will have to be 'de-weeded' before our spiritual efforts start bearing any result. All this begins only when one has woken up.


     To understand the dynamics of spiritual life, one has to understand the psychological process behind it. This understanding enhances our ability to do our spiritual practices better. Spiritual awakening, Sri Ramakrishna often said, is like the breaking of dawn. And as the orange orb of sun of spirituality rises on our mental horizon, it brings in a new and welcome change in our lives' total working. The new direction, fresh outlook that emerges thus is basic to life, per se. For if the society be an aggregate of individuals, a change in individual's life is the key to a change in social life too. And a change in individual begins with this awakening. Every religious tradition ultimately aims at bringing about this inner awakening. History is replete with numerous instances of this inner change and it has aptly been called 'spiritual conversion' of the soul. Being born in the world of spirit, man takes up the most salutary direction that life can have - experiencing the reality called God.







     1. Quoted in The Gift Unopened, Eleanor Stark, Peter E Randall, 1988, Box 4726, Postsmouth, NH 03801, p. 1.
     2. M., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Nikhilananda (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1974), 93.



     Prabuddha Bharata

     Vedanta Kesari

     Vedanta Mass Media


International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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