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Who Am I? Exploring Vedanta

The Practice of Discrimination

Discrimination is the heart of Vedanta. It is defined as being able to distinguish between the eternal and the non-eternal.  At the most mundane level, it means knowing right from wrong, so to speak. It means knowing, for example, that the sadness you feel or the anger you feel, or any emotion, is a passing emotion, and that it is not essentially you. Don’t you know people who are totally identified with their emotions, and act on them? While it may sound easy to discriminate and know all things end, what happens to you when you get ill, for example. Do you remember that the illness will end? What happens when you get really sad? Do you know that the sadness not eternal?

Try this simple exercise.

You can see by this simple technique that Vedanta has very practical use in daily life. Any time you are stuck in a strong emotion, you can begin this as a practice. Stop, recognize the emotion is there, and that at the same time, recognize that there is a witness, a knower of the emotion. Turn your attention to knowing the Knower, and you will be amazed at how it can impact your life.

Neti Neti

Discrimination is also the method by which we begin to separate from our identification with the body, mind, thoughts, ideas, etc. In Vedanta this is known as Neti, Neti. Not this, Not that. I am not my body, I am not my thoughts.

For me, this was the key turning point in my life. When I had my first meditation experience, and discovered utter peace and happiness, yet no thoughts were in my mind, I was shocked. I had no idea that there was something else besides my mind.

And when I had meditation experiences where I was “out of my body” and could see my body, I realized I was not my body either. The path of Vedanta is coming to have the conviction, through reasoning and experience, that you are not anything limited things. (In Vedanta, this is known as Apavada- elimination of false attributes)

Shankaracharya wrote a beautiful hymn called Six Stanzas on Liberation, where he goes through this process. Here are some verses:

I am neither the conscious nor the unconscious mind, neither intelligence nor ego, neither the ears nor the tongue nor the sense of smell and sight, neither ether nor air or fire nor water nor earth.  I am consciousness and bliss. I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

         Chidananda rupaha Shivo Ham, Shivo Ham

I am neither virtue nor vice, neither pleasure nor pain, neither mantra nor sacred place, neither Vedas nor sacrifices. I am neither food nor the eater nor the act of eating. I am consciousness and Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

         Chidananda rupaha Shivo Ham, Shivo Ham

I am neither brother nor friend, neither Guru nor disciple. I am without thought, without form. I am all-pervasive, I am everywhere, yet I am beyond all senses. I am neither detachment nor salvation nor anything that could be measured. I am consciousness and Bliss. I am Shiva. I am Shiva.

         Chidananda rupaha Shivo Ham, Shivo Ham

To hear this song in Sanskrit, look into Deva Premal's recording, available on ITunes.

Guided Meditation: Audio and Text

Next: The Results of Discrimination

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Who am I? Exploring Vedanta


My personal experience

Origins and Definitions

Teachings of Vedanta

Path of Vedanta

Practice of Discrimination

Results of the Practice

Devotion and Grace

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