Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Dialogues with Swami Dayananda - book review

Though Yoga has become contemporary and has had a wide reach, the concept of Vedanta has remained an esoteric science. There is a general impression that Vedanta is difficult to comprehend, you must be learned in Sanskrit to understand the same and it is best left to those who wear saffron clothes and stay in a Ashram. This small book sheds away all these misconceptions. In the words of the author “Vedanta is a complete knowledge; it covers every aspect of life. It covers psychological aspects as well.” The book answers commonly asked questions like why do people go to the Himalayas for self-knowledge, what is moksha, idol worship and many more in a very convincing way. 

With the picture of Swamiji in saffron robes on the cover, we carry an impression that he would answer the questions in an orthodox manner. To our pleasant surprise Swamiji gives candidly honest answers which touch us. So Swamiji tells us that there may be pitras or there may not be pitras (for whom you perform Shraddha). He tells us that there is no proof of pitras actually receiving the offerings. He tells us that the same is done only because it is written in the scriptures. He does not tell us that what is written in scriptures is always true. In consonance with the controversial guru Osho, this Swami of Shankaracharya order says that institutionalized religion is a problem, ideologies are destructive and moksha is when time swallows everything. So in sleep there is no time, in a moment of joy there is no time and this is what moksha is.  In today's commercial age where everything, including enlightment, can be experienced on payment of hefty fees, Swamiji cautions us by saying that Vedanta is knowledge not a happening. 

Though the book may appear to be very heavy for the beginners, if you keep patience for first few pages, you are surely to find a treasure alcove. He says you do not require a special experience like Samadhi to have an experience of yourself. It is enough to analyse your experience in waking, dreaming and deep sleep. One of the reasons for why Vedanta is not as popular as yoga appears to be that Vedanta is devoid of mysticism. According to Swamiji, when a tradition of teaching is not involved, it becomes mystical.  He says everything, including asana, pranayama, pratyahara, is useful. It all depends upon what you want. They are useful to gain a quiet mind. But if you think these practices are going to solve the problem of knowing yourself, that is not true. Faith he says all depends upon the past experiences and belief in one’s own judgment. His teachings reveal Vedanta is neither for nor against idol worship. He says nobody worships the idol; everybody worships the Lord. He does not harp upon eliminating all the thoughts in mind. According to him self-realization is not elimination of thoughts. It is to know the fact that I am the Self.  He says only when you do not struggle with mind, it is at peace.  He says even the wisemen like Vyasa had thoughts. If there are no thoughts a person will turn into stone. This is something new for spirituality which keeps on telling us, through books and talks, to live in the moment and strive to be thoughtless. 

Unlike the sects which encourage a newbie to be a renunciate and join their tribe, Swamiji tells Sanyasa is not for everyone. Everyone can be a Kamayogi, but Sanyasa is given only to a few. He stresses that being a Saint is not about performing miracles but being pure. This only eastern mind can comprehend of.  The book is an eye-opener for those who think that Indian philosophy is about not working and accepting whatever comes your way. Swamiji tells us that Indian philosophy is all about doing your best for a given problem and then forgetting about it. He says local problems (even in the body say a pain in the knee) need to be treated locally and not to make a fuss out of it by saying I am in pain. The writing style is very simple and smacked with examples from day-to-day life. The book is written with sole objective of giving a primer on Vedanta and not to convert any one. The book indeed tells many practical things about spirituality which have till date not come to the fore. Hence, I highly recommend the book for everyone who has keen interest in spirituality.

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